Fostering Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Year-Round

Black and white painting of dishes and fruit on a table

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Its historical origins aside, for me, it’s a day spent with family, some of whom I don’t see as often as I’d like.  When I was a kid, the hosting duties rotated among my mom and her four siblings, and a crowd of 20-30 of my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together for a delicious potluck-style meal, followed by hours of card games, laughter, and enjoying each others’ company.  The gatherings have become smaller over the years and the format has changed a bit, but I still look forward to this holiday more than any other.

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November is COPD Awareness Month

A photo of the author’s father
My dad, Dennis, who lost his life to COPD.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  COPD is an umbrella term that encompasses both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  It’s the disease that led to my father’s death this summer and that made him struggle to breathe for years.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 135,000 Americans each year.  More than 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and many more are likely unaware that they have the disease.

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Feeding Ourselves: Thoughts on Cooking and Convenience

Drawing of a bowl a fruit and a pear and orange on a table

I came across this article yesterday that reported the findings of a study showing that “[o]nly 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.”  The 10% number surprised me, as many people in my social circle cook most of their meals and seem to enjoy making their own food.  I’ll admit that I tend to fall into the lukewarm category, though it’s more accurate to say that my desire to cook ebbs and flows.

I know that cooking my own meals is generally healthier and more cost-effective than eating at restaurants.  Cooking can be a lot more satisfying, too.  I don’t live in a big city with an endless number of restaurants, and sometimes I’m just not that excited about my options for eating out.  On occasions when I want a specific dish, my chances of satisfying the craving are sometimes better if I make the dish myself rather than trying to find the precise offering at a local restaurant.  I also imagine that for families with kids and hectic schedules, eating at home is probably easier than going to a restaurant.

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Back to Basics

Trees in a forest

The last month and a half has been challenging for me.  I traveled to Greece for two weeks, which disrupted my usual routines, though I still managed to do some meditating and blogging while I was there.  Then my dad was hospitalized and died, and for a while it seemed nearly impossible to focus on anything else.  I still think about my dad constantly, and my mom and I are doing our best to figure out this new normal.  To top it off, I am pregnant with my first child, making me both excited and exhausted.  Simple tasks like eating and exercising have become much more difficult than they once were.

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Summer Slow-Down: Learning to Relax

A beach with two people relaxing under a pair of palm trees

As my mom will tell you, I’ve never very been good at relaxing.  Since about sixth grade, I’ve been involved in all sorts of things.  As an adult, you will rarely find me sitting down when I’m at home.  I tend to spend my evenings and weekends working out, doing yard work, doing laundry or other chores around the house, attending a meeting or event, visiting friends, or working on some kind of project.  I pretty much never sit in front of a television, and my relaxation time is usually scheduled (e.g., yoga class, meditation group, occasional massage or mani/pedi).

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The Bar Exam: Perspective and Self-Care

A stack of law books

Across the United States, recent law school graduates have begun studying for the bar exam, a two-day (sometimes three-day) test offered during the last week of July and also in February).  Each state gives its own version of the exam, which usually includes a day of tricky multiple choice questions and a day consisting of some combination of essay questions, short answer questions, and a closed-universe performance test.  Intensive test-prep courses usually begin in late May, and many test-takers study full-time and then some.

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How to Lengthen Your Telomeres So You (Hopefully) Live Longer

Pineapples and mangos in a bin at a market

I want to live as long as possible. That may seem like a sentiment shared by all, but some people would rather not go beyond 75. Not me. I love living, and I want to live as fully as I can for as long as I can. I believe humans can meaningfully contribute to society even very late in life. 125? Sounds great. More years to do all the things I want to do!

Given my attitude toward aging, I’m interested in research that studies longevity. I find the concept of telomeres fascinating. Telomeres are “the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes,” and they shorten as your cells divide. When they get too short, the cells die. If you are genetically predisposed to suffer from heart disease, for example, you’ll likely develop it sooner if you have shorter telomeres.

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Let’s Talk About Sleep

A koala sleeps in a tree

I recently heard an interview of Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep specialist and author of The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype — and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More. That got me thinking about sleep.

I need 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function well. I can occasionally get by on 5 or 6 hours if necessary, but generally only for one night. When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m not just sleepy and ineffective; I get physically ill. Sleep deprivation is a reliable precursor to a headache, and as a lifelong migraine sufferer, headaches can be bad news for me. When I chronically get less sleep than I should, my immune system takes a noticeable hit, and I’m likely to come down with a cold. Therefore, I prioritize sleep. Even during law school and while working demanding private practice jobs, I almost always got 7-8 hours of sleep each weeknight. (I didn’t sleep very well last night, for no apparent reason, and I know I’m going to be feeling the effects of that poor sleep later today).

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