Sunday, September 22, 2019

TIP - Schedule to develop new habits

When we want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, this usually means establishing new habits, which is not an instantaneous thing to do. Habits become habitual through purposeful repetition. The best way to establish a new activity as a habit is to consciously schedule it into your daily routine.

Need to exercise more regularly? Schedule two days a week to meet your buddy at the gym and put it in your weekly calendar app. Should you be stretching a few minutes every hour you are at your computer? Set an online alarm. Have you been putting off sending thank you notes? Commit to writing one every day before breakfast.

Want to walk for 15 minutes after lunch? Put that in your daily planner. Trying to add meditation to your stress reduction strategies? Tell your family that the first 15 minutes after you arrive home from work are your time to shut the door to your room and sit quietly. Do dirty dishes tend to piled up in the sink? Remind yourself to wash them after each meal before returning to other activities.

Having a set schedule for the new activity gives you a sense of control over that aspect of your new, improved lifestyle.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The End of Cookout Season

Person grilling food

Do you grill or broil your steak or chicken? Do you regularly eat meats that are cooked at a high enough temperature to char the outside?

You may be putting yourself at risk for high blood pressure.

It has long been known that eating red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with high blood pressure. The evidence relating chicken and fish (white meats) to high blood pressure had been unclear until recent research that focused on cooking methods.

When red or white meat proteins are exposed to high temperatures or charred, heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) chemicals are formed. This cooking method also creates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and advanced glycation end products. Animal studies have shown these three types of chemicals to all be hazardous, inducing oxidative stress, insulin resistance and inflammation. Those physiological conditions can increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Researchers studied people who ate meat at least twice a week. They found that those who ate well-done meat or who cooked meat at high temperatures or exposed to open flames had a greater risk for high blood pressure.

Not yet convinced to put away the hibachi and turn in your barbecue tongs? The researchers also found that cooking meats at high temperatures was also linked to weight gain and a risk of obesity. These are both factors increasing the risk of high blood pressure in addition to other health risks.

Read an interview with the head researcher here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

2019-08-27 1-4 PM Eastern - 3D Printing Class for the Blind and Visually Impaired

3D Printing
3D Printing

From ArcticPixy, Virtual Ability community member

If you are blind or visually impaired, you may think the 3D printing craze is not accessible to you. Not so!

The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library (New York, NY) is offering a class titled “Accessible & Assistive Technology: 3D Design with Code: a Gentle Intro to OpenScad.” The class will be held on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, from 1 to 4 pm Eastern (10am to 1pm ST/Pacific).

OpenScad is software that lets you create shapes with just a few lines of code. Combining these shapes allows you to build any 3-dimensional object you like using a laser cutter, 3D printer, or CNC machine. Although the software does show a visual image onscreen of what you create with code, you do not need to see it. You’ll learn to read the code itself to understand and revise your design. You will be using your spatial thinking abilities.

You do not need to have any prior coding experience! If you use a screen reader, set it so it reads punctuation marks (because those are parts of code). Braille readers work well with this software.

Learn more about the class here:

Everyone is welcome to attend this class, either in person at the library in New York City or remotely using Zoom. You do not need to be a resident of New York, or of the United States, as we understand it. Please register for both in-person and Zoom attendance by emailing or calling (212) 621-0627.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

TIP - Key nutrients to improve your health

Nutrients come in many forms!

Protect your arterial linings from getting clogged with cholesterol plaques by consuming more antioxidants. Antioxidant chemicals include vitamins C and E, selenium and carotenoids  (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein). Good sources include berries, broccoli, dark chocolate, grapes, kale, red cabbage and sweet potatoes.

Lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by increasing your consumption of dietary fiber from apples, beans, berries, bran, greens, peas, squash, and whole grains.

Decrease your risk of peripheral artery disease and stroke by lowering your homocysteine levels. B vitamins, found in broccoli, eggs, dairy products, legumes, meat, spinach and whole grains, will help.

Omega-fatty acids, found in cold-water fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), fortified milk, and walnuts decrease your risk for heart attacks.

Small additions or changes to your diet can have big effects on your lifetime health.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

TIP - Curb cravings with a different mental image

Do you want to eat a whole carton of chocolate ice cream when you feel down? Do you feel you need a cigarette after a meal? By mid-afternoon, are your thoughts turning to the snacks in the vending machine? These are not healthy thoughts. To get those cravings under control, replace them with healthier images.

Instead of a food craving, picture something more nutritious. Rather than thinking about how it feels to smoke, picture yourself hiking easily in a natural setting or climbing a mountain on vacation. In other words, use your imagination to replace the craving with a vision of yourself doing your favorite physical activity, or feeling good about your healthy body.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

TIP - Work up to your exercise goal

Working up to your goal

It feels good to have set an exercise goal as part of your effort to improve your lifestyle. However, it pays to start slow and work up to your intended level of exercise. Most injuries caused by exercise come from doing too much before your body is adequately prepared to do that much.

Instead, start off with short sessions of low-intensity exercise just a few days a week. As you become comfortable with that exercise routine, start increasing the frequency until you are doing a small amount of low-intensity exercise almost every day.

Then it is time to increase the duration of your exercise session gradually, until you are meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendation of 150-300 minutes per week.

Finally, when that amount of exercise has become routine, it’s time to increase the intensity or how hard you are working. This may mean jogging instead of walking, using heavier hand weights, or increasing the pull of your exercise band. Work up to moderate intensity activity.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Expiry Dates

Soda can expiration date

Let’s start this article off with a quick quiz.

Which item would you be willing to use if its manufacturer would not guarantee it operated safely and effectively?
(a) antibiotic cream for a cut to prevent infection
(b) sunscreen to protect you from a sunburn at the beach
(c) condom to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
(d) infant car seat to protect your baby in case of a car crash
(e) none of the above

Maybe you did not realize that, as with foods, many other consumer products have expiration dates. Here are a few to consider.

Antibiotic Cream
The bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the WORST places to store tubes of antibiotic cream (and other medications). Heat and humidity increase the rate of degradation of the chemicals in the ointment. The expiration date that is usually stamped on the crimp at the bottom of the tube is when the manufacturer will no longer guarantee the product’s effectiveness, especially if not stored in a cool, dry environment.

Hydrogen Peroxide
It comes in a brown bottle to protect the chemical from light. The contents of an unopened bottle should remain effective for 3 years, but once it’s opened, it won’t work properly after about 6 months.

To see if older hydrogen peroxide will still be effective in cleaning a cut, pour a bit into the sink. If it fizzes, it is probably OK to use.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that sunscreen ingredients remain effective at their original strength for at least 3 years after manufacture.

Some sunscreen containers show the expiration date. If not, use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the container, and throw it away 3 years after.

Do not store sunscreen in excessive heat (like your car in summer) or in the direct sun, as that will increase the rate of degradation. If you took the sunscreen with you to the beach, store it under a towel. And of course, if the product looks or feels “off,” do not use it no matter what the expiration date.

Most packages of condoms have a printed expiration date when the material from which the condom is made begins to degrade. Storage matters. Condoms in individual wrappers break down faster if they are in a warm, moist pace where they can get creased (such as a wallet or pants pocket). If a condom seems stiff, dry or sticky when the wrapper is opened, discard it.

Makeup gets contaminated with bacteria when you apply it. Since you do not want an eye infection, throw away opened mascara after 3 months of use, earlier if it dries out.

For more information about the shelf life of cosmetics, see this information from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Infant Car Seat
Most newer car seats have the expiration date stamped on the bottom. The materials from which the seat is constructed degrade over time, especially when left in a hot environment such as a coxed car during summer months. In general, good quality name-brand car seats will be safe to use for 6-10 years but be cautious of seats you find at garage sales.

If you are concerned about the safety of a car seat, or if you want advice on proper installation, most car seat inspection stations will provide assistance for free. Find a car seat inspection station near you, courtesy of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bicycle Helmet
Inspect your helmet for wear every time you use it, which should be every time you pedal. Sunlight degrades the plastic outer shell, and salt from sweat acts against the materials of the lining. Depending on how often you bike, you may need a new helmet every 2-4 years.

Cans of paint typical do not list an expiration date, so it’s wise to use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the can. Unopened cans of latex-based paint will remain good for up to 10 years; unopened oil-based paints last as long as 15 years.

However, paint begins to go bad as soon as the can is opened. You should certainly dispose of any can that has been opened after 2-4 years, earlier if you notice the paint has dried out, molded, or its texture is chunky.

Motor Oil
After storage for about 5 years in an optimal environment motor oil tends to separate and its consistency will change. This compromises its performance in protecting your car’s engine.

Household Batteries
Most of these are labeled with an expiration date, sometimes called a Best If Used By (BIUB) date. Although they may continue to work past that date, parts will have begun to corrode and this makes it more difficult for the battery to transfer electricity to your battery-powered device, so, for instance, the flashlight will start looking dimmer. Read this article to learn why batteries have an expiration date.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tips - Heat Hackx

The summer is ongoing and many places are in the middle of a heat wave.  The tips below will help you keep your home cooler with or without air conditioning.

Tip 1. Drink – a lot
On a normal day drink six to eight glasses of water. On warmer days or if you exercise, drink more. According to British Telecom’s Home website, “If you’re feeling light-headed, tired or you have a headache today, you probably haven’t drunk enough.” They mention that at 1% fluid loss humans are thirsty. At 2% one is officially dehydrated, so it can happen a lot faster than we think!

Tip 2. Makeshift AC
You’ve probably heard about the trick of putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan. Well, the New York State Office for the Aging suggests using bottles of water instead. “Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them… The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.”

Tip 3. Creative use of your fridge
Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.

Tip 4. Unplug
Unplug electronic devices that you’re not using. Even if they’re not powered on, they may still be using electricity and giving off heat. This includes devices which may be "off," but are really in "instant-on" mode. Unplug them or turn off the power strip to which they attach to save even more heat (and money, both to run for no use and cooling to remove the heat!).

Tip 5. Window treatments work
The US Department of Energy recommends closing the shades and curtains on your windows on summer days — especially the ones that receive direct sunlight. “Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent,” the DOE website states. Another pro tip: hang curtains as close to the window as possible.

Tip 6. Set the dial higher
This Old House says if your air conditioning has a programmable temperature sensor set it for 78 to keep cool. You'll save 5 to 8 percent on cooling costs with each degree above that mark. For a typical household, setting the thermostat at 80 degrees saves 10 to 15 percent; raising it to 85 degrees will save 35 to 55 percent.

When you leave home for more than one hour, set the thermostat to 85 or 90 degrees. Reset it upon your return, and the room will cool down in only 15 minutes. The system will use less energy during the cool-down period than if you had left it running at a lower setting while you were out.

Typical air-conditioning settings for a programmable thermostat at different times of day:

6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 75 degrees
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 85-90 degrees
5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. = 75 degrees
11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 80 degrees

Benefit: 15 to 20 percent or more off your cooling bill

Tip 7. Avoid setting air conditioning too low
Put a thermometer in front of your running air conditioning unit for a few minutes to see how cold it gets the air. Set your temperature two degrees higher than that, at minimum, so the unit will cycle as it was designed. Setting the temperature less than that guarantees it will never cool your house to that temperature – leaving it to run constantly, chewing up your energy bill.

Tip 8. Install a programmable thermostat
Also from This Old House, a programmable thermostat lets you preset temperatures for different times of the day, so air-conditioning is working only when you are home. The least expensive thermostat models ($30) let you set four cycles that, unless manually overridden, repeat every day. Higher-priced models ($50 and up) allow you to create settings for each weekday and for each weekend day.

Benefit: Up to 20 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 9. Maintain your air conditioner
To keep your AC unit running in tip top shape, the Department of Energy recommends replacing the filters every one to two months — a clean filter can lower the air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 -15 percent. And remember to check the air conditioner fins. “Are the fins on your evaporator or condenser coils bent? If so, they may be blocking airflow,” the DOE website states. “Look for a “fin comb” at an air conditioning wholesaler to get them bent back into shape.”

Tip 10. Use a Fan
Once again from This Old House, a fan, which costs two to five cents per hour to operate, will make a room feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler. Also, a fan works well in tandem with an air conditioner because the dehumidifying action of the air conditioner provides drier air that the fan can then move around.

In frequently used rooms, install a ceiling fan (set it to spin counterclockwise in summer). You'll save the most money by running the fan only when you're in the room. A motion-detector switch (around $20), which turns the fan on when you enter a room and off when the room is empty, is a good addition. However, if you have pets that move in and out of the room, make sure the switch can be turned off manually. Otherwise, your pets can cause the fan to run while you're away.

If nighttime temperatures drop into the 70s where you live, you might want to purchase a whole-house fan, which runs $300 to $600 installed. This type of unit goes in an upstairs ceiling, ideally in a central hall. When run at night with the windows open, the fan will pull cool air into the house as it vents hot air out through the attic. Most models are designed to slip in between joists for easy installation. Whole-house fans, which draw only as much power as a couple of lightbulbs, are usually outfitted with a variable-speed switch and/or timer. If you install one, be sure to get an insulated box to cover the portal in winter.

Benefit: Ceiling fans can decrease your cooling bill by up to 15 percent, while a whole-house fan can slash it by 50 percent.

The Department of Energy says that window fans are best used in windows facing away from the prevailing wind and exhausting hot air from your home. “To cool as much of your home as possible, tightly close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan,” the DOE website states. “In multi-level houses, the fan should be located on the upper level, if possible, and the open windows should be located on a lower level.”

Tip 11. Practice "Texas Cool"
"Texas cool" is a morning and evening routine that takes advantage of cool outdoor temperatures at night and keeps the heat at bay as much as possible during daylight hours. It's very simple to do: at night when the temperature drops, open windows and bring in cool air with window fans or a whole-house fan. As soon as the sun comes up or the air starts to heat up, shut the windows and shades and keep doors closed.

Benefit: 20 to 50 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 12. Use sun blockers
As much as 20 percent of summer heat enters your home as sunlight shining through windows. To cut "solar gain," add curtains or blinds to rooms that get direct sun and draw them in daylight hours. With the shades drawn, a well-insulated house will gain only 1 degree per hour when outdoor temperatures are above 85 degrees.

Pay special attention to west-facing rooms late in the day. Shades and blinds to consider include roller shades (the least expensive option), venetian-type micro-blinds, reflective curtains and insulated curtains (the most expensive, at $100 per window). Two exterior options are to install awnings or plant shade trees.
Benefit: Up to 20% of your cooling bill

Tip 13. Install awnings
Window awnings can reduce the solar heat that enters your home by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE website.

Tip 14. Cook smart
Any appliance that generates heat adds to your cooling load. An oven baking cookies can easily raise the room temperature 10 degrees, which in turn jacks up overall cooling costs 2 to 5 percent. Save cooking (especially baking) for cooler hours or cook outdoors on your grill. It is also a good idea to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer at night.

Benefit: 2 to 5 percent off your cooling costs

Tip 15. Get cooler lights
Incandescent bulbs don't contribute as much heat as unshaded windows, but they do add heat to a house and can raise the perceived temperature, sending you to the thermostat to seek relief. To reduce this hot-light effect and save lighting costs year-round, replace incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. They use about 80 percent less energy and emit 83 percent less heat.

Benefit: Up to 5 percent off your cooling bill plus electricity savings

Tip 16. Snug up the ducts
Leaky ducts can cut into air-conditioning efficiency. Ductwork must be balanced between the supply and return sides of the system for it to work safely and efficiently, so making a repair in one section can cause a problem in another. Leak-prone areas include the return plenum; where branch ducts meet the trunk line; and where ducts attach to outlets. Also, insulate ducts that run through a hot attic with a blanket of R-11 fiberglass insulation.

Unless the duct repairs are minor, it's wise to leave them to a HVAC pro. While the contractor is on site checking your ducts, have him tune up the air-conditioning unit by cleaning filters, unplugging coils, unblocking drains and lubing the fan.

Benefit: Up to 40 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 17. Seal air leaks
The places where cold air infiltrates in winter are routes for hot air in summer. And what's worse, hot air is often accompanied by high humidity, making you even more uncomfortable. Armed with a flashlight, exterior-rated silicone caulk and a couple cans of expanding foam insulation, hunt down and seal all leaks. Concentrate on the attic, basement and crawl space; pay close attention to anything that passes through a ceiling or wall, such as ductwork, electrical or plumbing conduits and kitchen and bath vents. Other common leaky spots are around windows and doors. If you can rattle a window, it's leaking. Seal it with weather stripping.

Benefit: Up to 10 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 18. Defeat attic heat
The temperature in your attic can reach 150 degrees on a hot summer day, a situation that if left unchecked can drive up cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. If your attic has less than R-22 insulation—7 inches of fiberglass or rock wool, or 6 inches of cellulose—you should add more. (The U.S. Department of Energy says most homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic. To check what's right for your region, go to the Department of Energy website.)

Before insulating, seal around recessed lights, vents, and plumbing and lay down a 6-mil polyethylene vapor barrier. When insulating, place boards across the tops of the joists to walk on, and as you insulate, don't cover or pack insulation around a bare stove pipe, electrical fixtures, or any other equipment that produces heat, unless the fixture is labeled as suitable for direct contact with insulation. Otherwise you risk fire.

Also make sure your attic is ventilated. Gable vents (around $25 each, plus $75 per vent for labor) can lower attic temperatures about 10 degrees; a ridge-and-soffit ventilation system (an extra $200 during re-roofing) will reduce attic temperature to around 100 degrees.

When re-roofing, use white or pale-gray shingles instead of dark ones. These keep the attic cooler than dark shingles.

Benefit: Longer shingle life, and up to 20 percent off your cooling bill.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

TIP- Cut calories by eating more plants

One easy way to reduce your caloric intake is to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are healthy plant-based foods. Consider adding berries or sliced fruit to salads along with a wider selection of vegetables. Focus entree selections on veggies. How about a veggie-stuffed potato or squash or pepper? Veggie pizzas, omelets and stir-fries are delicious non-meat alternatives.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tip - Eat More Fiber For Heart Health

Healthy Cereal
Healthy Cereal

You probably know that fiber is good for your digestive heath. Did you know that dietary fiber can also help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease? Here are some delicious ways to get more fiber in your daily meals.

At breakfast, reach for a dry cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber. Oatmeal is also a good choice. Sprinkle with berries or chopped fresh fruit.

Switch to whole-grain breads for your lunch sandwich, and pile on the veggies. Ever had a whole wheat sandwich with peanut butter and shredded carrots or raisins?

If you serve pasta for supper, use a whole-grain variety. Add fresh or frozen broccoli or other green veggies to pasta sauces.

If you prefer rice over pasta, try brown rice, barley, quinoa or bulgur instead of plain white rice.

Up your fiber intake and keep both your digestive system and your heart working properly.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

TIP – Four Steps Toward Increasing Your Activity Level


Do you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week?  If you need to increase your activity level, take these simple steps:
  1. Schedule your activity. Exercise and movement need to become as much a priority in your day as doctor appointments, errands or work.
  2. Start with activities you find easy and fun. You want to avoid both injury and burnout early on.
  3. Increase both the intensity and duration of your activity gradually. Don’t overdo it.
  4. Set short term goals and keep track of your progress. Journal your workouts to keep yourself motivated as you improve.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Healthy Eating at Ethnic Restaurants

Manti from Afghanistan
Manti from Afghanistan 
To keep sodium, calories, fat and cholesterol under control, follow these YES and NO tips for six popular ethnic cuisines, whether dining in or ordering takeout.


是 Shi (yes)
Hot and sour soups and steamed or stir-fried dishes are good menu choices. Select dishes with low-fat proteins (tofu, poultry, fish) and lots of veggies. Steamed white rice is OK, but brown rice is healthier if available.
不用, 谢谢 Bù yòng, xiè xiè (no, thank you)
Avoid fatty or fried items such as spareribs, egg rolls, wontons and fried rice. Request low-sodium soy sauce for the table, or ask for all sauces “on the side.” Remind the server that you would like your order prepared without added oil, salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).


Request your salad with dressing on the side. Roasted poultry, steamed shellfish or poached fish are delicious healthy choices. Consider sauces made from a wine or tomato base. The terms to look for are “Bordelaise” or “à la Provençal.”
Many French sauces are high in fat: béarnaise, béchamel, hollandaise. For the same reason, avoid croissants, pâté, and dishes such as French onion soup that are covered with cheese.


ναι Nai
Greek salad is generally healthy. Poached or baked fish or chicken kebabs broiled on a spit are great choices when cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic (“plaki”). “Psari plaki” is Greek-style baked fish.
όχι Ochi
Avoid high-sodium anchovies, feta cheese and olives. Some traditional Greek dishes are made with large amounts of butter or oil. There is a reason why “baba ghanoush” is supposed to have killed the sultan! Desserts such as “baklava” made with phyllo dough, butter, honey and nuts are also diet dangers.


Simple Italian fish and chicken dishes are good menu choices. You may also enjoy pasta with clam sauce, tomato sauce with garlic and onions (“marinara”), wine-based sauce (“Marsala”) or “primavera” with lots of fresh vegetables.
Veal “scaloppini” and “parmigiana” are both cooked with Parmesan cheese and contain added fat. You will want to avoid dishes with butter or cream sauces, and pastas stuffed with cheese or fatty meats.


はい Hai
Select from these healthy Japanese dishes: “kayaku gohan” (vegetables and rice), “shumai” (steamed dumplings), soba (buckwheat) or udon (thick wheat) noodles, steamed rice, “sukiyaki” (hot pot beef and vegetables), most tofu dishes, “yakisoba” (stir-fried noodles), and “yakitori” (skewered chicken teriyaki).
ノー Īe
These Japanese dishes are not as healthy: fried tofu, “tempura” (battered, deep-fried seafood or vegetables), “tonkatsu” (breaded deep-fried pork), “tori katsu” (panko chicken), or shrimp “agemono” (deep-fried).


Order grilled chicken, fish or shrimp with a salsa made of tomato, chilies and onion. Ask for soft, not fried, corn tortillas which are lower in both calories and fat than flour tortillas. Beans and rice are healthy side dishes.
That appetizer bowl of chips with guacamole adds many calories and large amounts of fat to your meal. Skip extra cheese and sour cream with the entree. Ask that your dishes be prepared without added lard or other fats.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

TIP: Why a sandwich is a great meal idea


 A sandwich is pretty much a perfect meal.  Sandwich ingredients come in a wide variety so you can make many different types of sandwiches that include whole grains, protein, and vegetables or fruits.   They also are automatically portion controlled, with one sandwich being a sensible amount for one meal.  Because sandwiches offer the three fundamentals of meal planning (balance of basic food types, variety within each food type, and moderation of amount), you might want to include more (and more types of) sandwiches in your meal planning.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Making Decisions When Disability Affects Employment

More Than One Way

 Perhaps you acquired a sudden disability due to an accident or illness.  Or possibly a progressive disability has gotten to the point that it is affecting your capability at work.  Or maybe it’s a combination of aging and a chronic illness.

Whatever the reason, many of us will face complex and painful decisions about our employment status.

Disability symptoms that can impact employment include:
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • cognitive changes
  • vision changes
  • anxiety or depression
  • reduced mobility
Other factors to consider are a sense of decreasing quality of life or a work-life imbalance.

Your employer or supervisor may notice that you have high absenteeism, which can be due to an increased need for medical care or for symptoms that cannot be managed in the workplace.  You may also be getting less positive performance reviews or negative feedback about your work products.

Before making any changes in your employment status talk with your doctor about symptoms that affect your work.  It is possible that a change in your symptom management plan or your prescriptions can provide all the accommodation you will need to stay in the same position.

If not, you will next want to consult a vocational rehabilitation counselor who can evaluate how your symptoms are affecting your work and suggest options for accommodation.  You will probably want to check with your doctor and the vocational rehabilitation counselor before your employer or supervisor calls you in for “the talk.”

It may be possible to stay in your current position with modifications of your job as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This US legislation required employers with over 15 employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for qualified employees whose disability impacts their work.

If you decide to invoke the ADA and ask for workplace accommodations, you will want to be sure that the accommodations provided do in fact improve your effectiveness at work.  If not, or if your symptoms continue to change and require additional accommodations, there may come a point where you feel you must give up your job.

In making this momentous life decision, be sure to do some careful financial planning.  Evaluate your health insurance coverage.  Will you need to work part time to maintain coverage under your employer’s plan?  Do you qualify for insurance under Medicare or Medicaid?  Do you have a disability insurance policy or long-term care policy?

Create a reasonable monthly budget based on your projected income from all sources (savings, spouse’s income, disability support, etc.) and your expenses.  You’ll probably need to think about ways to cut expenses.

You will also need to consider costs in the longer term.  What about the costs of modifying your home to make it more accessible as you age or become more disabled?  Would it be wiser to move now to a smaller, more affordable, more accessible place?

You will also want to think about the social and emotional impact of leaving your career.  Because adults tend to identify with our jobs, you may suffer grief at the thought of becoming “medically retired” (AKA, unemployed).  You may feel a loss of a sense of purpose.  You may feel that your family will suffer from your lack of income.  Your self-worth may be impacted since you are no longer a “contributing member of society.”

The change from career to non-working requires both adjustments and acceptance.  You will recognize that job-related social activities and friendships fade over time.  You will miss the weekday routine.  You may feel you are becoming isolated and depressed.

However, the emotional impacts of stopping work are not all negative, it’s important to remember.  Trying to achieve work goals that become increasingly difficult to meet creates harmful stress.  Leaving your job can offer you more time to spend with friends and family, and you may have more energy to accomplish household tasks or devote to your hobbies.

As part of your adjustment to your new non-employed status, be sure to involve your family members in deciding changes in roles and responsibilities in the home.  Reach out to your friends and support network.  Create some daily structure that will keep you active.

Your vocational rehabilitation counselor is also a good source of information about volunteer positions in the community.  Volunteering keeps you involved mentally and socially if you do have to stop being a paid employee.  It can also be a source of new friendships.

Always remember, if your disability is impeding your career, your life is unbalanced.  Sometimes the best way to obtain a quality life balance is to quit the job and move on to a new phase of your life.

Leap Of Faith for Better Opportunity

Monday, June 17, 2019

Cooking Meat Safely


1.  Proper meat cooking for safe results begins with purchasing the meat.
  • Purchase fresh meat and poultry last before checkout.
  • Meat should feel cold in the store. Any meat product that feels warm has not been properly stored and could be unhealthy.
  • Look for packages that are tightly wrapped with no tears or punctures in the wrapping. If the product is vacuum packed, be sure the seal has not been broken and the package is not leaking.
  • Avoid packages with excessive liquid around the fresh meat, or ice around frozen meat. This might mean it had been stored improperly.
  • Check the sell-by date on the package to ensure freshness. If you buy meat or poultry on or right before the sell-by date, be sure to freeze it as soon as you get home or prepare it that day.
  • Wrap the meat package in a plastic bag before you put it in the grocery cart to avoid leaking meat juices onto other food products.
  • If the grocery store is more than 30 minutes from home, transport purchased meat products in an ice chest or cooler.
2.  Store the meat carefully before preparation.
  • Refrigerate purchased meat and poultry as soon as you get home from the store.
  • Keep meat cold in the meat compartment or coldest part of the refrigerator to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage. Be sure the temperature of your refrigerator is 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or lower.
  • Keep refrigerated meat packages on a tray or in a plastic bag so the meat juices do not leak onto other food.
  • If you freeze meat or poultry for use within a week, do so in its original store wrapping. If you plan to keep the meat in the freezer for more than a week, it should be removed from the store wrapping and rewrapped securely in freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
3.  During preparation, it is important to avoid contamination of meat and other foods.
  • Wash your hands carefully in hot soapy water before and after handling fresh meat and poultry.
  • Keep fresh meat and poultry and their juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and in the preparation area.
  • If the meat was frozen, the safest way to defrost it is by letting it sit in the refrigerator. Never defrost at room temperature, as that allows harmful bacteria to grow.
  • To defrost a package of meat more quickly in cold water, leave it in its original packaging or in a leak-proof bag if the packaging is not air-tight. Submerge the package completely in cold water. 
  • Change the water every 30 minutes so the meat stays cool while it thaws.
  • Some microwaves come with a defrost feature. This works quickly but can begin to cook the meat in random areas. These spots become warm enough for bacteria to grow, so microwave-defrosted meat and poultry should be cooked immediately.
  • As soon as meat and poultry has been prepared for cooking, wash all cutting surfaces, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water. If possible, use a special dedicated cutting board only for fresh meat and poultry.
  • Never put cooked foods on the same board, tray or platter that was used for fresh meat or poultry before it was cooked. When grilling, use separate plates to transport fresh and cooked meats.
4.  Meat should be cooked to the correct internal temperature. This will kill harmful bacteria that might be in the fresh meat.
  • The best way to know if meat is cooked thoroughly is to use an instant-read or ovenproof meat thermometer, which can help you avoid both undercooking and overcooking. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, but do not let it touch bone. If pieces of meat are irregular in size, check a few of them to be sure they are all cooked to the appropriate temperature.
  • Slow cookers or crockpots are very safe ways to cook fresh meat and poultry. These kitchen tools will keep meat and poultry at a safe temperature as long as they are operating.
  • Frozen meat and poultry may be safely cooked in the oven, grilled, or on the stove without defrosting, although the cooking time may be up to 50% longer for the meat to come to the correct internal temperature.
  • It is not safe to cook frozen meat and poultry in a slow cooker or crockpot.
5. After serving your meat dish, if there are leftovers to be used in a later meal, proper storage is again important.
  • Chill leftover meats quickly before storing in the refrigerator or freezer to hinder bacterial growth. Spread large amounts out in a shallow container or divide large quantities into several smaller portions.
  • Ensure proper airflow around leftover containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Do not pack them tightly. This helps maintain the proper temperature in the compartment.
  • Label the leftover container with the date it was put into the refrigerator or freezer. Cooked meat and poultry will be safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; it will last in the freezer up to 4 months. If you are unsure how long the cooked food has been stored, throw it out.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Make Charitable Contributions Safely

When you donate money to a charity, you want to be sure that it ends up furthering the cause you intend to support. Here are six steps to take when donating to ensure the charity delivers on its promises.

1.    For your donation to be tax-deductible in the US, the charity must be a registered, qualified non-profit. Search for the organization’s name in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) database of tax exempt organizations.

2.    Check out the organization’s website. Look for the organization’s mission statement, then find evidence of outcomes or impact of the organization’s work that align with its mission. Is the information updated and current?

Does the organization publish an annual report or other documentation of its claims of effective use of funds? Read accounts by persons served by the organization, but also look for statistics.

Check the staff’s contact information. Is it possible to identify actual persons you could call or email? Read their biographies to get a feel for the types of people intimately involved in the work of the organization.

3.    How do others feel about this organization? While you do not necessarily have to agree with people who offer either glowing testimonials or scathing negative reviews, it is useful to read both.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issues reports based on 20 Standards related to governance, finance, effectiveness, and informational materials about organizations for which they have received complaints. (Charities can also request a BBB evaluation. Those which meet all 20 Standards are then display the BBB National Charity Seal.)

Several independent organizations monitor the spending patterns of charities. It is felt that reasonable organizations spend no more than 30% of their income on running the business (salaries, office expenses, fundraising, and marketing). The charity should put at least 70% of donations toward the organization’s mission. Here are places to check how the charity you plan to donate to will use your dollars.

Charity Navigator shows the percentage of the organization’s budget spent on everything not related to its mission for organizations on their alphabetical listing. The website has a separate list of charities their experts have various levels of concerns about.

Charity Watch is like Charity Navigator but is organized by category rather than alphabetically. This can be helpful if you look for alternatives to the charity you were originally thinking of.

GiveWell is a VERY picky site. They create an annual short list of top global charities in the healthcare and poverty reduction arenas that are evidence-based and under-funded. This is useful if you want to donate where funding would be most effective.

GuideStar is perhaps the best-known source of information about charities. Free registration offers you tons of information on nonprofit organizations.

4.    From your research in steps 2 and 3, write a list of questions you would like answered about the organization.

Charity Navigator has a great list of questions that each organization should be able to answer, either through online documentation or by phone call or email.

5.    Contact a real person by phone or email and get answers to your questions. Follow up if you don’t understand an answer or need more depth.

6.    If you are planning to donate online, take these extra safety precautions.
·         Don’t ever consider giving your financial information through a website unless it is “secured.” You can identify a secured website by the letters in front of its URL. Secured websites begin with “https” where the “s” stands for “secured.”

·         Give directly to your desired charity instead of to a third party who is collecting donations “to be sent to” it.

·         Protect your personal information. Read the website privacy policy. Find out how the charity says it will use the information you provide. They should give you an “opt in” choice to allow them to disclose your information to other organizations. Find out if they place “cookies” on your hard drive.

·         Print out a paper record of the confirmation screen (or confirmation email) that your donation was received. Put this with your tax records.

Most charities are reputable and strive to improve the human condition. Don’t refrain from donating to charities. They need our support. Just be sure you donate safely.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Safe Gardening in June (and Every Other Month)

Gardening is a great hobby if done safely. It can provide both relaxation and exercise. Your garden might make your environment prettier or provide you with veggies and fruits for your meals. But you will want to follow these six tips to be sure that you are safe while working in your garden.

1. Get the best tools for gardening

Back and knee pain is the most common problem caused by gardening, so invest in a garden stool or knee pad to kneel on. If the handles of the tools you have are too short to use without stooping, you can get extensions to lengthen them. Or you can purchase new tools with longer handles with ergonomic easy grips on the ends.

The Arthritis Foundation asked accessibility experts to test various gardening products. The ones that work the best for persons with physical limitations are given their Ease of Use Commendation logo. Look for that symbol when shopping for gardening tools. Wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers. Any puncture or opening in the skin, no matter how tiny, offers a way for germs to get in and start an infection. Leather gloves will protect you from insect bites, thorns, and poison ivy.

2. Prepare the area where you will grow your garden

Remove all stones, debris, and unwanted plants from the area. You do not want any trip hazards for the gardener and the garden plants do not need competition.

Remember, a garden does not have to be at ground level. You can grow flowers and vegetables in container gardens or large pots, and herbs on the kitchen windowsill. You could make raised bed gardens which are great for gardeners who use wheelchairs and others who have trouble getting down to and up from ground level. It is even possible to garden in hanging baskets or on a vertical frame, if that works better for you.

3. Start small

Choose easy-to-grow plants that won’t need a lot of care. Try to limit the size of your garden to what you can care for in about a half hour, so you don’t expend more energy than you have available. Gardening is one hobby that is easy to make too big to handle!

4. Maintain good posture

Learn the proper technique for using a shovel. Use large muscle groups when possible since they are usually stronger. When lifting, bend your knees, grasp the object, hold it close to your body, and raise up using your leg muscles. Don’t bend over and lift through your back muscles. Get help with really heavy or awkward objects.
Twisting to shovel dirt or pull weeds can lead to problems with the spine and hips. Try to avoid twisting, and hinge straight forward from the hip joints (watch the video to find out what it means to “hinge”!).

5. Alternate activities and take rest breaks as needed

Keep your body safe while gardening. Avoid repetitive motion injuries by switching hands on tools and tasks.

Stretch before and after a gardening session. Stretching is a multi-purpose activity. It acts as a warm up for the muscles prior to a physical activity, a relaxation during the activity, and a cool down afterwards.

Pace yourself. Gardening can be done in short bursts rather than one long session.

Be sure to stay properly hydrated. It is generally recommended to drink a half liter or more of water each hour you work outdoors, but this amount will vary with temperature, activity level, and personal characteristics. Drink again when you are done gardening.

6. Keep your gardening tools clean and sharp

Wipe soil off tools and store them in a dry place to keep them from rusting. When the blades or edges of shovels, trowels and other digging tools get dull, sharpen them carefully or have them professionally sharpened. Sharp garden tools work better and will make your gardening less effortful. Take proper care of garden tools and they will help keep you safe while gardening.

Store garden chemicals like fertilizer and herbicides properly. Read the label and any warnings carefully before safely using these chemicals.

Here are some more tips and suggestions for safe gardening: