Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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It's already February and my plans to eat better and exercise in the New Year are still sitting on a "To Do" list. Yes, I know, this happens to lots of people, but that doesn't make me feel any better.


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You and your lists. Things like lose weight, exercise, eat healthy are too vague to put on a list. If you were a smoker, would you put "Stop Smoking" on a list?


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OK, poor choice of words. They're not really on a written list, they're just goals I set for myself.


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That is even worse. Do you expect you will magically do it without any daily reminders – or interim target goals? And, what is your motivation?


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Thanks. That makes me feel even worse.


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Get over it. You cannot change the past. But, February is a perfect time to start again.


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February is too much like January – cooler weather that lends itself to comfort food and just wanting to nest. Plus, it gets dark early.


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Those are just excuses. February is perfect because it is American Heart Month. And, heart disease is the leading cause of death – for both men and women.


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That's definitely a good reason. The irony is that I know what to do. I just can't seem to find the motivation to keep it going for more than a few days. But when it comes to eating well and exercising, nothing seems to deter you.


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That is because every morning, I walk into a large closet filled with size 2 clothing.


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That's funny.


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Funny or not, it is the truth. I have always been a clothes horse. Now, decades later, I have a significant investment hanging in my closet. And, since almost everything is timeless and classic, I would be extremely annoyed if it no longer fit.


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Well, even if it's something us "mere mortals" can't relate to, at least it keeps you motivated. I just don't have anything like that in my life.


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Really?! I can name two things.


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Well, I'm not sure Natasha and Sawyer would want to be referred to as "things", but I see your point. I think I did a better job staying fit when they were younger and truly needed me every day. Plus, when I was cooking for them, I was more focused on healthy eating. Now that they're older, they don't need me as much.


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That sounds like more excuses. They may no longer need you as cook and chauffeur, but they need your life experience and unconditional love as they struggle with the challenges of young adulthood.


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Ok, I don't know whether to start feeling guilty right now or sad because I'm not taking good enough care of myself to be there for them. And hopefully for a long time to come.


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The third option is to stop being so dramatic, and just start taking better care of yourself. Although Jewish guilt is often an excellent motivator, that was not my intention.


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Thanks for reminding me that taking care of myself is NOT selfish, because it's about more than me.


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Do you remember the airplane and oxygen mask analogy?


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Oh, yes. It was one of your trick questions. You asked me if I was on a plane with the girls and we lost altitude, causing the oxygen masks to drop, would I first put the mask on myself or the girls. I answered the girls, of course. You then pointed out that if I didn't take care of myself first, I wouldn't be in a position to help them.


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So, if you remembered that, why have you not been taking better care of yourself?


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Easy. Because day-to- day living keeps distracting me. At least I'm good with having all my annual exams done because a reminder pops up on my computer. And before you ask, yes, that includes having my blood pressure and cholesterol checked.


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Good, because getting "your numbers" is an important first step in diagnosing heart disease. But, is it critical to realize that since it is the #1 killer of men and women, we are all at risk. You always think it will happen to someone else.


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Well, let me break the news to you, that's just human nature. Plus, most people aren't into numbers like you are. But now that I think about it, given our family history, we may be more at risk than other people.


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How many more reasons do you need to start eating healthier and exercising more?How about the financial Implications? The cost of medical care if you get sick. What if you have a stroke and need long-term care?


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Just the thought of that makes me sick.


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Cute, but the good news is that you can always be a burden on your children; whereas since I live alone, if something happens to me, I will have to hire someone to help me.


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I'll ignore the "burden" comment, but I hope you know that I'm always here for you.


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I appreciate that. But, between my stubbornness and independence, not to mention, my closest full of clothes, I rather do everything possible to avoid that scenario. That includes being aware of warning symptoms and going to the doctor sooner versus later.


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Says the woman who can afford to have a stress test and other diagnostic tests done when there weren't even any symptoms.


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I wanted a baseline for future comparisons. And, peace of mind that there were no "silent symptoms".


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As a mom, I'm more inclined to take a "do what I say, not what I do" approach. I've always taken the girls to the doctors when something was wrong, but not myself. Let's face it, most of the time stuff goes away, so I'm not going to start running to the doctor for every little thing.


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I am merely saying that you cannot be an ostrich with your head in the sand when it comes to your health. Ignoring symptoms does not make them go away. Not taking care of yourself can have serious implications. But, it is up to you what you do … you can make smart decisions now or regret it later.


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Well, that's brutally honest.


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Yes, it is. Would this work better? … Since people associate the heart with love, take care of your heart because then you are also taking care of those you love.


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Ok, you being warm and fuzzy is a bit alarming. But it has motivated me to go for a walk and think about how I'm going to not only begin, but maintain, my "new and improved" lifestyle.


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Mission accomplished.


Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by Rabbitti for iStock

It’s #GivingTuesday, and although it’s always a good time to think of others, remember all the people who are continuing to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters long after the headlines have been forgotten.

And even though Black believes charitable giving can be “secretive”, she also knows there’s science proving helping others is good for you. (Warning: she likes to recommend the book “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself.“)

P.S. – Wherever you may choose to donate, beware of potential scammers. So, if in doubt – check them out! (Black likes GuideStar and Charity Navigator.)



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I know today’s Giving Tuesday, but what I always find so amazing is how you treat every day as “Giving Tuesday."


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What makes you say that? I do not donate to an organization or charity every day.


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You’re always so literal. I meant that the spirit of “giving to others”, whether donating or providing support in some way, seems to be part of your daily life.


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I think you are exaggerating.
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Photo courtesy of Red’s eldest daughter, Natasha


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At the risk of asking you a warm and fuzzy question, have you thought about what you’re most thankful for this Thanksgiving?


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Yes.


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I should’ve guessed that you’d take the question literally. Could you expand on that a little, or at least give me a hint?
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Photo by htomas for iStock

When Red was a child, toilets represented more than a place to go when, well, you had to go. Much to Black’s amusement, Red saw cleaning them as a reward. (Really! Check out Red's post below.) But neither of us realized that billions of people don’t have access to toilets. And if it weren’t for today being World Toilet Day, we never would have known the magnitude of the associated health and safety issues – or the connection between sanitation and groundwater.

RED: What can I tell you? When I was a kid, one of my all-time favorite things to do was … clean the toilet. Yes, you read that correctly. And it wasn’t because I was a germophobe or a clean freak. I just loved being able to sit on the floor, using as much Bon Ami (I’ve no idea why I remember the brand) cleaning powder as I wanted. And the best part? All those bubbles!

It kept me entertained for hours. Not to mention, my mom was thrilled because it kept me “contained” and out of her hair. So much so that if I was very good and behaved myself, she might even give me “special permission” to clean the toilet in my parent’s bathroom. Of course, Black, being five years older and understanding the situation, found it all extremely amusing. Even now, decades later, she still gives me grief about it,

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