Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

The impact of plastics on hormonal and brain function in children

Early Puberty, Hypospadias, and Behavior Disorders in children related to exposure to Phthalates, via food and food containers, plastic toys, and skin care products (this was the original title, but it seemed too intense upon editing…)

After much reading and research, I sat and thought about this particular writing segment with trepidation. I returned time and again to the science, to the surprisingly scant literature regarding Phthalates (pronounced f-thalates—get familiar with the pronunciation—this is a very important issue), and felt queasy and worried and nearly overwhelmed.

Why, you wonder? I don’t want to be an alarmist, but…

I have learned a lot over the years about processed foods, the corporate greed that drives the sales and distribution of less-than-real food, and the misinformation that is perpetuated by those corporations who produce these foods and food products. While I know that there is much that I still don’t know, I am crushed by the new learnings I have gained this past week about Phthalates. And I wonder how to share what I’ve learned with others, without inviting angst and guilt, yet I clearly wish to educate the masses and raise a call to action.

Where to begin…?

I do believe that back in the day when companies were moving quickly and making great strides in development of products that would bring a heightened convenience to our lives, that good intentions were what drove the exciting discoveries of new uses of man-made synthetics and chemicals. The scientists of the day weren’t diabolically planning to bring us disease and to compromise our health. I do believe now however, that there is a suppression of the evidence regarding the potential harm from this largely unregulated exposure to synthetics and chemicals, complete with a greed element involved. There have been small scientific studies of the potential health hazards related to the relentless exposure we face, and we do not know enough at this time, yet the corporations producing these products continue to assure us of the safety of their synthetics and chemicals—even as they permeate the food chain.

I am talking about Phthalates, a group of chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastics and plastic products. Imagine the thrill those early scientists must have experienced when it was discovered that Phthalates enhanced the manufacturing of plastics by making plastic products more flexible.

Many millions of pounds of Phthalates are produced each year and 95% of Americans have measurable levels of Phthalates in their urine. Phthalates are found in:

  • plastic food and beverage containers
  • coating on pills
  • vinyl flooring and carpet
  • pesticides (which means they then enter into the food chain)
  • skin care products [think baby lotions, ointments, and shampoo]
  • medical supplies (IV tubing and bags, gloves, NG tubes…studies show that neonates are exposed at five-times higher the allowed daily tolerable intake—how ironic and scary is that?)
  • electrical cords
  • your car dashboard
  • laundry detergent and
  • insect repellent, just to name a few sources of our continual exposure.

Endocrine Disruptors

Perhaps most distressing is the strong correlation noted between exposure to Phthalates, known as “endocrine disruptors”, both in utero and via our daily food chain exposure. Much of the scientific analysis yields a “might increase the risk, and needs further studying” summary as the science addresses the increased incidence of asthma and allergies, ADHD, early puberty, sexual organ malformation and fertility issues—all noted in the most precious of humans, our children.

Somewhere along the way,  a concern was raised regarding the risks associated with a continuous exposure to Phthalates, leading to the invention of a modified product–a low-molecular weight version Phthalates. Their low-molecular weight allowed for the assumption that these next-gen Phthalates were safer than their predecessors, and the newer version was added by the barrel-full to the skin care products used for both children and adults. The most recent data indicates that the continuous and cumulative exposure to the low-molecular weight Phthalates, has in fact, more of an endocrine disruptor effect, especially in-utero.

Early puberty

Look around at the boys and girls in our families and communities. There is evidence, although not definitive, to suggest that exposure to the “endocrine disruptors” found in many household plastics, body care products, and cleaning products has an influence over the age at which boys and girls enter into puberty. This is one of those areas that scientists agree that further studies are warranted. How about we get started on those studies? Early puberty is linked to increased risk for breast cancer as one concern, and there is much dialogue in the world of pediatric social science regarding the correlation of early puberty with early and unsafe sexual behavior.

As a side note, obesity is another contributor to early onset puberty. The correlation to an increased intake of High Fructose Corn Syrup is strong, and I will cover that in another writing session. I’m feeling too emotionally overwhelmed from these two days of research into Phthalates to dive into HFCS for the moment…But, it’s important to point out here that there is a suspected correlation between exposure to Phthalates and Insulin Resistance, which is a precursor to obesity…so the cycle continues regardless of how you look at it.


Hypospadias is a condition in which the urethra within the penis of a male fetus is not properly developed, rendering the urethra to be improperly positioned away from the tip of the penis, requiring surgical repair. This occurs in 1 in 125 boys. Oh my gosh. This is a horrifying and unacceptable rate of incidence, in my opinion.

“The CDC’s analysis of the changes in the frequency of hypospadias in the United States revealed a striking pattern: the rate has more than doubled since 1970. Indeed by 1993, hypospadias was detected in one out of every 125 boys born in the United States.” Holy Moly, what a terrible statistic. And that there is a whisper of a chance that this increased incidence is related to exposure in utero to Phthalates is mind boggling. Per the CDC report, “the percentage of severe cases has increased over this time period, suggesting that other explanations should be sought.” SHOULD be sought? Pardon me, but how about if we start that information seeking right this very minute? Please and thank you.


Everyone has heard of ADHD, a now common health concern for preschool and school-aged children, the incidence for which has risen exponentially over the decades. Is this merely a coincidence that as the exposure to chemicals in children has increased, so has the incidence of ADHD? This, from an NIH review of the literature, “CONCLUSION: The present study showed a strong positive association between phthalate metabolites in urine and symptoms of ADHD among school-age children.”

Clearly there are other contributing causes to the increased incidence of ADHD [think: preservatives, food dyes, too much sugar especially of the HFCS variety, and violent TV shows–this is my opinion of course, as the definitive science is not present at this time, but I am willing to trust my intuition on this]. But the fact that in utero and during the precious infant/toddler years, there is a known correlation between brain development/behavior issues and Phthalates is simply unacceptable.

A Call To Action

Bottom line summary, from my heart: Do I want to wait—for either definitive evidence that there is a direct connection or do I want to follow my intuition that strongly tells me that there is enough correlation already in existence to direct me away from plastics, especially those used to hold food, as well as pesticide-laden produce to minimize my exposure to Phthalates? As consumers, and especially those of you with children or thinking of having children, it seems especially prudent to research your food sources, minimize your use of plastics in the kitchen as well as in your home wherever possible, and to raise your voice actively by sharing your concerns with your family and friends, as well as with the companies that produce these products.

Next up is the research required into the hair and body care products that I personally use so I can determine whether I will keep or toss them…

(sub) Urban greenhouse farming

Our neighborhood farmer’s group met last week for a work-hour in the greenhouse. Remember, I am sharing this experience with 6 – 11 year olds…

Here are a few young (sub)urban greenhouse farmers introducing themselves:



A highlight of our time together was the harvest and eating of our first radish! I chopped up the greens and sliced the radish, poured a drop of home-made dressing and we dug in…


Green House March First-1-8







After our shared harvest, Ayva got busy with the splitting of some kale seedlings to be transplanted into a growing sack:

Green House March First-1-5







My buddy Kai and I have been eager to plant carrot seeds; we’re experimenting by placing seeds into the growing pellets and some directly into the soil in a growing sack. We’ll see what differences arise as the seeds sprout and grow…


Green House March First-1-9








This neighborhood greenhouse project brings me great joy…


Green House March First-1-2
































Neighbors and organic greenhouse farming

Finally! We gathered in the greenhouse to officially launch this organic neighborhood suburban glassed-in farm on Saturday 1.30.15. Three families from the neighborhood with a combination of 5 children and one family friend from down the road with two more children all squeezed into the greenhouse, excitedly. Their ages ranged from 6 – 11 years old.

Getting Started

I began by explaining why I started a greenhouse — that I am concerned by the use of chemicals in the growing of our food, and that I choose to eat organically cultivated foods. Touching on not only our own personal health benefits from eating cleanly grown food but also the benefits to the water, air and soil when we grow food without chemicals, the youngest of the children piped up with, “Is what we are doing going to save the world?” I was both touched and amused by her innocent question. My answer, “yes, everything we do in this greenhouse is making the world a better place” was heartfelt and sincere.

We talked about the organic soil, which I had purchased at Worm’s Way in Bloomington, the cloth growing sacks that I had chosen for the plants to grow in, the growing pellets that were being used to start some of the seeds in their germination, and the compost tea that was dripping out of my compost barrel! As well, we talked about how the greenhouse heater worked and the hydraulic windows that opened and closed based on the greenhouse temperature.

We can have a giant neighborhood salad party!

In the weeks prior to this first neighborhood gathering, I had already planted many herbs, cherry tomatoes, okra, artichoke, cucumbers, broccoli and brussel spouts into the growing pellets and many were ready to be transplanted. As I showed the children what was already growing, and as we decided together what seeds to plant today, they became so excited! They tasted nibbles of parsley and rubbed the leaves of sage, oregano, and thyme for their heavenly smell, and that same sweet 6-year old child excitedly exclaimed, “We can have a giant neighborhood salad party!” Gotta love that youthful exuberance!

I gently split the larger veggies starts from their pellets, pointing out the root systems–cukes, artichokes, broccoli–and they took turns transplanting them into the growing sacks. Young hands tend to make broad strokes, a fact which lent itself to discussion about fragility and being gentle with tools and fingers.

Demo roots



The next step was placing new seeds into the new growing pellets; if you haven’t used them before, check it out here; they work well and are fun to monitor. The pellets had been soaking in water overnight and the children clambered to have their turn at “planting food”. We planted the seeds of peppers (which have not done well at my previous attempt a few weeks prior), cukes, broccoli, okra and beans and radish. Then it came time to water; of course they all wanted to use the hose; I could see immediately that my ability to finesse the hose nozzle to produce a gentle bath was not a skill set that these young hands possessed. After adjusting the hose bib and many reminders, they each were able to water some of the plants.

Eww! What’s that?

Onto the compost tea!

Initially, those kids were a bit grossed out by the drippings in the pan under the compost barrel. But when I opened the barrel in which lay many veggie scraps, and they could look inside to see that it wasn’t gross, it was just decomposing and actually smelled good–in an earthy way–they thought the idea of decomposing was very cool! Using a drippings baster, I spritzed each of the seedlings as well as the already established small plants with a bit of that hearty tea.


One of them quickly surmised that worms would also help the soil, so off they ran on a worm hunt. Sure enough, 3 return trips yielded 5 worms, which the two youngest gently placed in separate growing sacks. We misted them with water and wished them well. Later that afternoon, those worms were nowhere to be found, leading me to believe that they are happily burrowed into the soil.


Stay tuned for an update soon!

Greenhouse Update #1, 1.22.15

Oh my, I feel like a new parent! Having just returned last eve from a 5-day trip to Florida for a family visit, I didn’t know what I’d find in the greenhouse. SO much has happened! I am giddy with joy! The seedlings in the grow pellets went from This:

Seedlings 1.11.15





To this:

seedlings2 seedlings1





The Meyer lemon is in a full revival mode, after a near-death experience, from being inside the house for 5 weeks in it’s shipping wrapper, while the greenhouse was being built (don’t ask…!); truth be told, the Meyer lemon is my favorite plant in the greenhouse, but don’t tell the other plants…

Meyer lemon





The seeds I sowed directly into the soil have begun to sprout! Here’s fennel, dill, and cherry tomatoes (you’ve got to really look for them):






cherry tomatoes





The rhubarb is going strong,






and the celery heart that I’ve placed in water is beginning to re-grow–eventually, I’ll put it in the soil also.






And finally, after taking these “before” photos, I transplanted to broccoli, beans, Brussel sprouts and artichokes:






radish.brussel sprout







My GreenHouse: growing organic food in the cold of winter, in the Midwest…

Green House 11 Jan 2015-1-2As I endeavor to share my experiences of (attempting to) grow my own food–in the midst of the cold Midwest winter–I marvel at the journey that has brought me to this unexpected life opportunity.

We moved from Northern California to Evansville, Indiana a little over a year ago for a job offer that we couldn’t resist. (you can read about that here, if you’d like). We had never even heard of Evansville, Indiana prior to the job offer and when we came to visit that first time in June of 2013, we had no idea what to expect.

Yep, I’d read online about the Midwest growing a mega-ton of corn and soy, I’d read about the humidity and rain, and I also read about a couple of small-farm farmers who had embraced “near-organic” growing standards in the area, and who offered a coveted CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, read more here). I was happy to read that EVV had a natural food Co-op food market, River City Food Co-op as well as another natural food market, Elbert’s. I reached out to one of the farmers (Yay Gwen, from Off the Fence Farms!) and was somewhat soothed to know that there was some cleanly-grown food available in the EVV area–not at all like what I had become accustomed to in NorCal–but perhaps it’d be enough to sustain us…


On that first weekend’s visit, we went to the SouthWest Indian Master Garden Association, primarily because John had read about the lovely flower garden that attracted a plethora of colorful birds. Much to my surprise also growing there was a huge vegetable garden. I was touched by the signage stating that the garden had grown several tons of produce in the previous summer that had been donated to the Food Bank, and that this garden was managed by volunteer Master Gardeners. To my delight, a mature couple complete with their MG vests and name tags were working in the garden that morning.

As John photographed the birds and flowers, I engaged them in conversation. Tactfully, I steered the dialogue towards the organic gardening techniques with which I was familiar from my growing experiences in NorCal, and they told me that this MG garden project did not use chemicals on the plants. My heart soared! I was jubilant! They went on to tell me about how I could become a Master Gardener, which was required for me to do prior to being able to volunteer to work in the garden. Wow! I had found a beautifully productive garden, for which I could eventually volunteer to grow, weed, cultivate and share the bounty with the community.


When we made the decision that Yes! we’d move to the Midwest, the thought of becoming a Master Gardener was enticing. I signed up for the semester-long, once-a-year class online, after an email exchange with the instructor acknowledging that I would still be in California when class commenced, and that I’d miss the first three classes which meant that I’d use up all of the allowed absences before even sitting in the classroom! The instructor tried to persuade me to wait but I couldn’t imagine waiting until 2014 to take the class–I wanted to become a MG and volunteer in that lovely and productive garden! To be honest, I barely skimmed the requisite materials in those first three weeks, being busy closing our medical practice and packing up the house, but I showed up enthusiastically on time for the fourth lecture, on October 2, 2013.


Immediately, I experienced a gut-wrenching insight: that sweet, mature couple who implied that the MG produce garden did not use chemicals were not correct. And it’s entirely possible that I misheard or misinterpreted what they said. Nonetheless, that very first day in the MG program, I learned that MG’s embrace chemicals. They strive for perfection and ease within their produce and flower gardens and will happily spray chemicals to achieve that perfection. To say I was disheartened would be too gentle, I was all that, but I was also flabbergasted and a wee bit outraged. I won’t say more about the MG approach to growing food and flowers, but suffice it to say that I have had many animated conversations with the instructor over the course of the semester and that several of my fellow students approached me during class breaks to articulate their shared concerns and voice their affinity for cleanly-grown food.

When it came time to put in my MG volunteer hours–a prerequisite for progressing through the program–I found myself to be hesitant to participate in a garden project. I did volunteer with some teaching modules as well as some judging of 4-H gardens for the annual county fair. I considered dropping out of MG, as I saw a fairly large disparity between what I value in terms of growing techniques for food and ornamentals as compared to what is embraced by SWIMGA. Disclaimer: I am not criticizing members of SWIMGA and I am not wishing to sound righteous; I do however feel that SWIMGA members have a rich opportunity to expand their gardening techniques by embracing non-chemical methods of cultivation. My philosophy to those MG’s willing to listen is: “what right does one person have to dump toxic chemicals onto the land, into the water and air, primarily to grow unblemished produce and flowers?” It turned out that the MG instructor is also the coordinator of interns and he encouraged me to not leave the group–although he and I do not hold the same opinions about chemicals in the food chain, he saw that I am passionate about cleanly-grown food, and as a health educator, he encouraged me to find a project that would allow me to teach while promoting organic growing of food.

A Greenhouse Urban Farming experience comes to life!

And THAT is how I came to have a greenhouse…that, and the desire to feed myself and my husband some of the foods that I dearly miss from my NorCal days: artichokes, Brussel sprouts, Meyer lemons, figs, and year-round herbs to name a few, and all grown cleanly, without chemicals.  Not that I’d ever grown those plants previously, but they had always been readily available seasonally where I shopped. I’d only ever grown tomatoes, cukes, peppers, zuchs, and some herbs previously, all from starts that I’d happily purchased at the local organic nursery.  To qualify as a MG project, I have invited neighbors with children and non-neighbor friends with children to participate. I have the honor of sharing my passion for cleanly-grown food, and why it’s important in terms of personal health as well as for the health of the planet. I have zero greenhouse experience, so this is truly a learning project for all of us involved.

I bought the greenhouse online–perhaps some other time I’ll share with you the nightmarish logistics that arose from my lack of understanding of what occurs with construction–but eventually it was installed at the end of our driveway. It’s quite a lovely structure and 7 weeks into it, there are all sorts of foodstuffs growing in there. The herb beds contain parsley, tarragon, sage, oregano, scallions, rosemary, and thyme; I’ve got the Meyer lemon and fig trees in the soil; and have recently started from seed, cherry tomatoes, 2 types of okra, 2 types of beans, tomatillos, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cucumber and sweet peppers. Seedlings 1.11.15We are off to a grand start! What we’ve/I’ve learned thus far:

  • 1. The pellets in which seeds are placed to facilitate their sprouting prior to being put into the soil require more water than you’d think! I lost most of the sprouts in the first 2 dozen pellets…

2. While the heater will keep the inside temperature at a lovely 60 degrees, the outside temperature will freeze the hose and water nozzle, rendering the watering process to become quite an act of creativity. Eventually, I figured out  to get a 3-gallon BPA-free container that will stay inside the greenhouse, to hold water for the days when the temps are below freezing. In the Midwest, there are plenty of those days.

3. Talking to plants helps them to grow strong and happily. I truly believe this.

4. The porous cement floor is absorbing some of the heat being cranked out by the heater, as observed by a friend who grew up on a farm. Per her suggestion, I am going to find some non-treated wood chips to put on the cement floor to provide a heat-retaining shield. This should diminish some of the Oy Vey! from the utility bill.

Stay tuned for progress and learning reports. Onward!



Green House 11 Jan 2015-1



How about a topping of anti-freeze on your ice cream?

PGSay what?! Antifreeze and ice cream in the same sentence, what’s that about?

Alas, antifreeze chemicals are indeed present in much of the packaged foods and beverages that Americans frequently consume. Last week, I wouldn’t have known that, but here’s how it all went down:

With winter approaching and freezing temperatures predicted, we began to look into how to keep our back yard fountain flowing without causing the motor to seize in the freezing water—so our visiting birds could continue to quench their thirst throughout the winter months. The contractor who installed the fountain suggested an antifreeze product that was safe, safe enough in fact that it is regularly used in the kitchen water systems of RV’s. Hmmm, antifreeze in the water that the birds were going to drink? That surely didn’t sound right. We went online to see what we could find out and woweezowee, did we get a lesson.

A bit of science: Propylene Glycol (PG) is a kissin’ cousin to Ethylene Glycol (EG)—EG being the toxic ingredient in auto engine antifreeze. EG will cause kidney failure if ingested, which could result in death. PG is a lesser version admittedly, yet PG takes twice as long to biodegrade as EG, and the description of PG as having a “lower level of acute toxicity when taken orally” did not alleviate my concerns as I continued to read more.

Propylene Glycol has been classified by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” for use in food, and is found in many conventionally packaged baked goods, margarine, cake mix, ice cream, canned icing, sauces and dressings, flavored coffee drinks, and whipped dairy products. Oh yeah, PG is also added to soda, beer and some hard liquor. There are some 1200 food items that contain PG, not all of them labeled as such; that “artificial butter flavor” is a PG substance, but since it arrived in the food factory already pre-made as a fake butter, labeling laws do not require Propylene Glycol to be listed as a separate ingredient. Caramel coloring, which is present in nearly all snack foods is all PG; again, it arrives to the snack food factory as PG called caramel coloring, which is how it reads on the label. I used to think that referred to a caramel type of sweetener, until I read more. Yikes!

A few of questions came up for me as I read:

  • What led to the evolution from real food to processed foods with additives, such as PG? That one is easy to answer—PROFIT.
  • PG in food extends shelf life, which means that the manufacturer makes more money. (think pop tarts)
  • PG creates a creamier taste in food that entices consumers to continue to want it and buy it; and yep, you guessed it, that makes the manufacturer more money. (think McDonald’s Big Mac sauce)
  • PG keeps ice crystals from forming in fat-free ice cream—since there’s no fat to hold it together, fat-free ice cream tends to develop ice crystals—and, remember, this all began as a exploration to keep ice crystals from forming in my fountain… So fewer ice crystals and “improved” texture, means more fans of this food, and once again, we’re talking more money being made for the manufacturer. (think Breyer’s)
  • What does it mean when a food additive is Generally Recognized as Safe? While testing, if the lab animal doesn’t die immediately upon ingesting PG, is it deemed safe? Is that good enough for consumers – to not die immediately? Where is the testing that looks at the risk of ingesting PG every day, over a period of years? What about additives and Autism? Alzheimer’s? Multiple Sclerosis?
  • Do we really need food to “taste better”? Doesn’t real food taste just fine in its natural state? Do we need more than salt, pepper, natural sugar and other natural herbs to enhance the flavor? When were consumers lured into thinking that fat-free with a side of PG is somehow better than a moderate portion of real, full-fat, already-quite-creamy-thank you ice cream?

And this, a big-time revelation:

  • The cattle industry loves Propylene Glycol! Wanna know why? Because it makes cows fat. Yep, you read that correctly—cows are given oral doses of PG to offset the state of ketosis, to keep them fat for market preparedness (see below for an explanation of ketosis). If cows are made and kept fat by adding PG to their daily rations, what about human beings who ingest PG daily? Is this contributing to the obesity epidemic? Fat_cow

So, ask yourself this: Do you want to eat a muffin or cupcake that’s been infused with Propylene Glycol to keep it soft and moist so it could stay on the shelf for weeks and weeks at the mini-mart? Do you want to eat ice cream that’s had the fat taken out but that has had PG put in to trick you into thinking it’s creamy? Do you want to drink beer that has a stable head foam from the addition of PG? Is the soft and uniform crumb texture of Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake worth the ingestion of PG? Do you want to eat microwave popcorn that derives its “artificial butter flavor” from an infusion of PG?

As a coach for optimal health, I believe that each of us wishes to be their best—to feel vibrant, to approach each day with abundant energy, to feel connected to our physical self by living a life committed to eating real food—whole foods that nourish and satisfy us, as well as by engaging in regular activity and movement, and to nourish our souls by allowing a few moments of quiet reflection each day. Sometimes however, the commitment to self becomes buried under daily life on planet earth responsibilities; this may be when convenience foods show up to fill the few-minute gap you have between family, job, errands, etc. It’s not that you do not care about yourself—I know that you do—but if you haven’t had time to read about convenience food ingredients, you will not understand the potential concerns that arise when those processed foods take a seat at your table.

As a last note in this rather long blog, I will share that I am exploring my options as an advocate; an advocate for my family, friends and community, as an advocate for those without a voice, and as an advocate for our planet. In my burgeoning role as a full-time volunteer, and as I become more engaged with food and nutrition awareness and access via my Evansville, IN community, it has become more and more apparent to me that the giant food industrial machine does not much care about our health and well-being, nor about the health of our shared planet, but cares a lot for their profit margins. The longer foods last on a shelf, the more chemical additives they can infuse into food to “enhance” the flavor or texture, the more money they spend enticing children to ask for less-than-nourishing food vis-à-vis their advertisements, the more money they spend lobbying our elected officials to influence food policy, the more motivated I am to raise my own voice. I will research, share my findings with you, provide nutrition and cooking classes, and continue on my journey to pursue food justice.

And our backyard fountain? The contractor is going to install an underwater heater to prevent freezing from occurring. Happy birds, happy planet, happy me. Check out the fountain!

[Ketosis is the physical state of fat burning. Ketosis occurs when a shortage of glucose is present. Glucose presence results from the ingestion and metabolism of carbohydrates, at which time glucose is then burned for energy—quite efficiently, I might add. A low or no-carb eating plan leads to the state of ketosis simply by forcing the body to seek an alternative fuel source. If no glucose is present, the body will burn fat, which can work as a fuel source, albeit less efficiently. This is how low or no-carb eating plans work—by changing metabolism from glucose burning to fat burning. Fat burning will result in often-quick weight loss, yet there are considerations worthy of explanation: Carbohydrate ingestion resulting in the presence of glucose is the perfect brain food; glucose readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and feeds our brains with marvelous nourishment. Studies show that cognition is negatively impacted in those who follow a strict low or no-carb eating plan. As well, the metabolism of fat, as in ketosis, gives the kidneys and liver a lot more (unfamiliar) work to do, increasing the chance for their premature wear and tear. And to clarify, when I write about carbohydrates, I am talking about whole food, whole grain, good quality carbs, not those from high fructose corn syrup, or processed white flour products…]

Revive, With Gratitude

The last HeartMatters newsletter was titled, “On Closure, Softly”. I wrote it in June of 2012, and sent it out to the masses. My email inbox filled with responses commenting on the sensitivity with which I wrote of the journey towards my surrender—of stepping back from HeartMatters, my Coaching for Optimal Health consulting practice. Here’s the link for the story, so you can get the background, if you’d like: http://heartmatters.pro/updates/closure-softly

It is my hope now to write with that same sensitivity, as I welcome the revival of HeartMatters. Substantial life changes have occurred in the past one and one-half years, bringing insight and deepening gratitude into every day, that have liberated me to fully embrace a slower, more meaningful manner with which to move about my day.

We’ve moved from our beloved and closely connected community in Northern California to “the heartland”: Evansville, Indiana. After much soul-searching and research, my husband and I decided that what was best for us professionally, and more importantly, on a personal level, was to close his medical practice. John had been in private practice as a Cardiologist for 24 years—and it became apparent to us that our extremely busy pace of life was being dictated by government regulations, reimbursement cutbacks, and so many of our patients having lost their insurance or being under-insured…we were struggling to pay the practice overhead while maintaining a break-neck schedule to meet the needs of our patients and colleagues. We allowed ourselves to wonder if this was truly the life we were meant to live, and this exploration led us to other options. At the end of June 2013, we came to Evansville so John could look at a job within the Veteran’s Administration system. The opportunity for him was ideal: Monday-Friday, 8-4:30 in an out-patient clinic, with no on-call hours, no hospital procedures and all weekends off! What an amazing change from what he had been used to!  We made our departure announcement within our community in early July, we were able to transition our patients and staff to a group of trusted colleagues, and on August 30th, John left for Evansville!

I orchestrated our move, the closing of the medical practice, the wrapping-up of our lives in the town in which we’d lived for nearly 30 years. We had many poignant moments saying goodbye to our loved ones, as well as our patients, many of whom had become like family. Not to mention our long-time staff members, who were family…there were many tears, celebrations, and send-offs. We left feeling fulfilled personally and professionally and were eager to see what our new life would bring.

So many people talked about “how brave” we were to be taking such a leap. They wondered how we’d manage the change in politics, food awareness, climate, and if we’d be able to make new friends who were like-minded thinkers. I wasn’t feeling brave, I was feeling exhilarated about the possibilities that this huge life change would bring.

What I’ve learned about myself through this experience is that I am truly an optimistic person. I anticipate the best outcome of any situation. I embraced this adventure with an open mind and simply love what has come into my life thus far. In Evansville, Indiana of all places!

I’ve been liberated from a “day job” schedule. I am able now to volunteer in ways that are deeply meaningful to me, and with time that—previous to this move—I could only wish for. Due to the variance in the cost of living in the heartland versus California, we are able to sustain a gracious and smaller-footprint lifestyle on John’s salary. Oh my. For the first time in my adult life, I haven’t held a full-time job. Amazing. What a gift!

Research before leaving California led me to Urban Seeds, a small group of committed parents (of wee-little kids!), who endeavor to bring food awareness to the Evansville community. Side note: Indiana is a central location for factory-raised animals and conventionally grown produce. A lot of chemicals are used in agriculture here—a fact that is alarming to many—and, Evansville has a high percentage of citizen’s with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The members of Urban Seeds are making slow inroads in this community to create opportunities for change around eating local, sustainably cultivated produce and animal products. I am now a proud member of their Board of Directors and look forward to contributing to their ongoing success.

As well, I’ve taken a BOD position with the local food co-op. It’s a fledgling store in a rickety old house, that is filled with positive energy and forward motion! There’s a speakers series that I’ll become part of, community promotion for shopping and eating local and away from the big box that I can get behind, all in addition to supporting the cooperative model of commerce.

I’m savoring quality time in our new kitchen, transforming love and joy into delicious meals. I’ve reconnected with my meditation practice and watch the winter birds come to our feeders. I walk with the dog. I write. I sit.

The initial professional endeavor I will pursue is a proposal to Mayor Winnecke to present “lunch and learn” workshops for the city employees and administration. Perhaps a 3-part series to focus on eating well, small-step positive behavior changes, and quieting the busy mind… This type of connection to community is one that is familiar to me, and one with which I can share my knowledge of and passion for living a balanced life.

Hence, the grateful revival of HeartMatters. My foray into the world as a woman with the time and the desire to give to others.  Stay tuned!

“When I began to work with Robin as a client, she immediately recognized that my success involved more than treating issues relating to my heart. Her knowledge and caring has given me the opportunity and confidence to improve my overall health and mental outlook for the future. I have received excellent care from many doctors but what may be more important is that Robin has made me want to do more for myself.
—Pat G., Client

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