I’m an Evolutionist

Healthy Living

Are you an “evolutionist”? I am. In many respects. Do you think Steve Jobs was ever satisfied with what he produced? Do you think the engineers at Boeing ever stop designing airplanes that will be safer? Do you think a heart surgeon performing open-heart surgery ever says “this is how I learned to do this in medical school twenty years ago, I’m sure it’s good enough”? I certainly hope not! And yet what those people do, what those companies produce are always being improved on. Their knowledge, technologies, their processes, all evolve. An iPhone from the fist release is nothing compared to what is available today. What was the best thing in the market one, five, ten, fifty years ago is inferior in nearly every respect today.

Continued professional education is required for many fields because of ever changing information and developments. Information and knowledge evolve, as a result, professions evolve. How we treat people in the medical field has evolved tremendously over the years. What used to be the best available, has improved tremendously as our knowledge has evolved. There is always room for improvement. This is true for every industry, every field of study, every field of science.

This applies to what we know about nutrition and exercise, about lifestyle and our environment. Advances in knowledge are made daily that can enhance our health, our productivity, our longevity and our quality of life. Don’t settle for what worked ten years ago. It may have been the best we knew then, but what we’ve learned has evolved. In speaking with people about my philosophies surrounding diet, exercise and the use of organic and natural products in my environment, I am often met with resistance because this is all based on information that has been recently gathered and is still being analyzed and developed. Again, what had evolved ten years ago in nutrition we have found to be not very good at all, and actually, quite harmful. This field of study has evolved tremendously over time. One hundred years ago, people, for the most part, ate what they grew. There was very little use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. During the past century, we have taken our knowledge and developed a vast array of chemical compounds that kill pests that plague our food supply and that will allow us to produce large quantities of food in non-native areas across, non-native climates and for unnatural growing seasons. What we are learning now is that those chemical compounds are actually altering our hormonal balance. We have, in striving to produce larger quantities of high quality food, poisoned ourselves. What evolved in chemical enhancement of our food supply has evolved into chemically poisoning our food supply.

My mom was a registered nurse and studied for her vocation in the 1940’s. She firmly believes that exercising “overuses” our joints and causes damage. Her arthritic knees provide tangible proof, in her eyes. My mom never exercised regularly, in my eyes. She walked while working, and occasionally she walked for “fitness”. On rare occasions she would submit to a fad exercise program for about a week. This being the “exercise” that destroyed her joints. She could be right, but I am putting my stock in the vast amount of contemporary information that supports building strength and flexibility by routine, vigorous activity, building core strength and weight bearing exercises. At the age of 49, my knees are perfectly pain free and strong. I am a marathon runner, a field of exercise plagued with knee injuries, and I say “injuries”. Marathon runners don’t have bad knees because they are marathon runners, they frequently have injured knees because they have trained inappropriately or because they have over trained, done more than their bodies were prepared for. Any form of exercise will be prone to injury if done improperly or in excess of what the body is ready to handle. Every joint needs to be protected by a network of strong muscles and connective tissue around it. Failing to appropriately build and train those supporting muscles will make you more prone to joint pain and injury. This based on the evolution of study in the sports medicine field.

Just think of what all has developed since the 1940’s, in all fields of study, in all fields of science. We’ve put a man on the moon since then. I’m pretty sure what we’ve learned about nutrition and exercise has improved, and what was believed to be the best information then is no longer very relevant, now.

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, it became very popular to package simple to prepare mixes for cakes, main courses and side dishes. Think Rice a Roni, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Betty Crocker’s vast array of products, Hamburger Helper. This practice has continued and now we can buy just about anything powdered, frozen, boxed, or canned. It’s a heat and eat world. And all of this has altered our food supply, how we prepare and ingest food, and even the family dynamic of mealtime. We have evolved into families that no longer visit in the kitchen while whole foods are turned into a delicious and nutritious meal. We have evolved into families who eat on demand, often solitarily, or “together” in front of television. This all thanks to the science and developments of their time, improving on what was the best science, technology and information available. In my opinion, these ready-to-heat-and-eat foods, now, are irrelevant. Our knowledge has evolved. The additives and preservatives and processes required to make something that will move from market to TV tray with minimal effort on the consumer’s part doesn’t just remove the effort from preparing food, but also the nutritional value of the food, the knowledge of the content of the food from the consumer, and the social family aspect in preparing and eating a meal from raw ingredients. You are eating food that is more chemical than food, and more processed than many complex machines we produce. It is depriving you of your health, and is impacting your quality of life. This all is based on what we have learned more recently, on recent evolution in studies of health, disease and nutrition. In food, and in many things, our knowledge has evolved and we’ve found that simpler is better. Simple, wholesome food with simple, wholesome ingredients provide better nutrition. Our bodies will never evolve to be able to know exactly how to metabolize or understand, all the pre-packaged, chemically enhanced, genetically modified, over-processed non-foods on the market shelves.

This simplicity also translates to other areas, other products, that we use a great deal of and, as a result, can actually be quite harmful to our health, to our hormonal and metabolic balance. Hormonal and metabolic balance is responsible for how fat we become and for how diseased we become. There is a whole field of science and research in this area that isn’t really making the over-sensationalized, contrived, mainstream, media news. Our knowledge has evolved, but we just don’t know it yet because the message hasn’t arrived in the popular media.

Household cleansers are one of the biggest offenders. At this moment, my mom is spraying, indoors and out, every window in the house with a commonly produced commercial window cleaner, now chemically reformulated to not cause streaks. I just pleaded with her to allow me to use vinegar on the windows in my office and my bedroom, even if it provides a less than streak free result. Reluctantly, she agreed, giving me that wide-eyed look that translates into “my daughter is some kind of hippy freak.” Because this chemical window cleaning cocktail is available on every market shelf means it must be the smartest, mostly highly evolved thing available. Yet, after a recent hospitalization for a chronic and life threatening anemic condition, she asked her doctor if the condition was genetic. The doctor replied, no, it is most likely environmental, the result of exposure to properties in the environment that caused her body to no longer produce enough red blood cells. Like maybe decades of overuse of a common chemical window cleaning cocktail? Just a thought. She uses this stuff everywhere, all the time. She sprays it on every surface food comes in contact with, the countertops, the stovetop, the vinyl tablecloth. It is used so often it never gets put away. At any time of the day or night, I guarantee you will find the window cleaner and a wad of saturated paper towels on the counter.

I just cooked my lunch, a nice yummy burrito. I walked down to the garage where I keep my old-fashioned iron skillet, toted it upstairs and placed in on the stove next to my mom’s non-stick pan. I could feel the questioning look from across the kitchen. I just really, really don’t want to use anything chemically coated to apply heat to my food. Is that unreasonable? The fact that you are hard pressed to find any other kind of cookware on the shelves at Target doesn’t make it safe to use. My mom’s response to my action was to tell me I should read Nora Ephron’s essay about her love and affection for non-stick cookware. I love Nora Ephron. I will miss Nora Ephron. She was a delightfully gifted and talented writer. To be kind of a bitch, but hopefully to kind of make my point, I couldn’t help but ask my mom how Nora Ephron died, tragically, at such a young age, way before her time. Ah. Cancer. Right. No proof that it was her affinity to non-stick cookware. No proof that it wasn’t. Recent information, our evolution in knowledge, seems to indicate that non-stick coatings may be linked to cancer. The advice the popular media is willing to share is that non-stick cookware should no longer be used if the coating is scratched in any way. Um, I’ll stick with my cast iron skillet over non-stick cookware, no pun intended.

I guess my point, here, is, that as we evolve in our knowledge, advance in the many fields of study and science, as information is gathered and analyzed, we should consider that knowledge that evolved a year, five years, ten years, fifty years ago, may not be reliable, or safe, anymore. And even if our knowledge and studies and science move us in a direction that seems to be the opposite from the technological advances of yore, it is based on the best information we have, on where we have evolved. For the sake of health, of longevity and of quality of life, I am always going to seek out, discern and apply the most recent information to my lifestyle. I am, after all, an evolutionist.

Numbers or Words

I have always sucked at math.

For as long as I can remember, I have sucked at math. I have always been sort of an over achiever and a wee bit competitive. And I have always loved school, the idea of school and of learning. I’d still be in school, if I could, but at some point I had to stop, and get a job, so my kids could go to school, and love it too.

I remember way back before kindergarten, driving by the school down the street and looking at the building with the weird curvy roof, the multipurpose room, and thinking, since it was the room at the far end, that must be where kindergarten was. All I wanted in the whole wide world was to be in kindergarten so I could learn to read. I was four years old. When I finally turned five, you remember, I’m sure, the eternity a year was when you were that age, I got to GO TO SCHOOL! I was only mildly disappointed that kindergarten wasn’t held in the big room on the far end with the curvy roof. Kindergarten totally rocked, except we didn’t get to read. First grade was way better because Mrs. Wells was our teacher and we got to learn to read! I remember learning to sound out the letters posted on the wall over the chalkboard. Game on! I was determined to finish the “Sullivan Reading Series” before anyone else at Browns Valley Elementary School, and I had until some time in second grade to do it. There were thirteen modules with stories about Sam and Ann and their cat Tab, how random is that?

I remember, by half way through first grade, I was way ahead of most of the other kids in the reading program, there were really only a couple of kids I was in competition with. Two girls and one boy. I was so going to finish the thirteenth module before the rest. Game on. I loved my first grade teacher and prospered under her compassionate instruction. I was definitely in the running entering second grade. My mom was one of those moms, much as I was, that requested one teacher over the other for her child’s special, accelerated, and extraordinary educational needs. And, being a woman of well chosen words, in both cases, always got what we asked for, the “best” teacher in that grade level. Unfortunately, the “best” second grade teacher at Browns Valley that year didn’t think I was the best student. Sad face.  For my super-human efforts in completing the Sullivan Reading program, I came in second, after the other girl, but before the boy. But, on the bright side, I was reading a few grade levels ahead of second grade.

Math, on the other hand, not so good. I got addition. I got subtraction. Multiplication and division were a bit harder, but with concerted effort, I memorized the tables sufficiently. Word problems were the devil. And anything that even resembled solving for “x’” was an automatic “huh?’ “X” was a letter, it belonged in words, and only a few words, at that, it had no place in arithmetic!

Junior high is a dark memory. Actually, academically, other than English, French, Physical Education and Band, I remember nothing; math and science, to be exact, were a black hole. By the time high school rolled around, and college was on the horizon, my parents employed mathematically gifted family acquaintances to try to nurture me through Algebra and Geometry. It was a dismal attempt. When I applied for college, way back when, for a “state” college, all you needed for “guaranteed” admission was a 3.25 GPA. I had all A’s in my English, foreign language, physical education, arts and other electives. My perfect 4.0 was lowered to 3.27 by my consistent underachievement in mathematics, but, nonetheless, I had a red carpet entry into college.

In college, I was only required to take one math class for my chosen field of study. I had to successfully pass college algebra. Somehow, I totally lucked out and got a coke fiend for a teacher. I showed up for the first day of class and , tweaking, with a mustached encrusted with white powder, he explained his grading scheme; hand in homework, pass the tests and pass the class. Done. I think I showed up two more times all semester, to hand in homework (and the answers were in the back of the book) and to take the tests. He managed to show up for a few classes, and I showed up for even fewer. I got a C, an A on the homework portion and a strong D- on the tests. But, I passed, and never had to worry about math again.

Flash forward ten years and I, miraculously, unwittingly, graduated from college, because, if I had anything to say about it, I’d still be there! “Here’s your degree, now get out!”

I got a bachelors degree in criminal justice, but life is weird and somehow, I’m an accountant, which, you would think is all math. Luckily for me, Excel does the math and I just learned how to build a really wicked formula!

I’ve been in the accounting profession for twenty some years, and it has been good to me. My goal in life, for whatever reason, is to reach six figures by the time I’m fifty. Abstract, I know, and, additionally, I am well aware that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just a competitive thing. I will be fifty in July, this year. If I add up my salary and potential bonuses, etc., I will fall shy of my goal. I’m looking for things to sell, up to, but not including, my body, in order to meet my goal. I am extremely goal oriented and this is killing me, for whatever reason. I thought about adding a PayPal button to this post, but didn’t. Ugh.

So, what do I really want to do when I “grow up”, which, really, according to my personal philosophy is NEVER? I want to write. All I have ever wanted to do is write. I was first published in the second grade. I wrote a whole, well worded paragraph on being Amish and it was published in the Browns Valley School annual essay publication. I still have it, in case you doubt me. But, when my GPA was suffering in junior high and I almost got dismissed from the GAT (gifted and talented) program, I wrote an awesome, extra credit project and it cured the problem. In high school, I was published not once, but twice, in the annual essay collection. When I’d been in college for nine years and was still trying to finish up my general education requirements, I wrote an awesome plea to the dean and got the final twenty one units of general eduction requirements waived. Other than writing legendary Christmas family newsletters the kind most folks cringe to receive, and rarely read, and the occasional letter, blogging has been my only literary outlet since college. Sad face.

A way with words is a gift, and if you have it, you can rule the world, unless you’re really, really good at math, then you can rule the universe. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s what I’ve taught my kids. My son was born speaking in four syllable words. My daughter is an English major and a grammar nazi, bar none. I’m a little embarrassed to let her read what I write! From day one, I spoke to them as if they were adults, I never spoke baby talk to them, I spared no five dollar words. In our home, the dictionary was on the pedestal, the Bible was on the shelf. Sorry, God, at least the good book was in the house. I’ll be writing an admission essay to heaven, if necessary, and Saint Peter will cave at my eloquently worded plea for entry.

So, while numbers are currently what pay my bills, I endeavor to swap them for words. I know that none of us will ever be truly fulfilled until we are doing, in life, what we are truly passionate about. I have passion and respect for the job I do now, for the products I support, for the people I work with, and for, and for the company I am employed by. But, when all is said and done, I want to make my living as a wordsmith, not as a bean counter. Writing, and helping people evolve towards their own fulfillment, is what I am most passionate about. The progression is slow, but eventual, if for no other reason, because I am determined. And because I have bills to pay. And I have two kids in college. And even if writing is what I end up doing for a living for the last moments of my life, when I am too old and decrepit to do what I do now, I will still have succeeded in my goal. Simply this, I choose words over numbers. Count on it!