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.


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Dear Data Geek, where is my sister, and what have you done to her?

For as long as I can remember, including her entire adult life, my sister has always seemed allergic to numbers. She was a straight-A student, so did well in math, but only because she worked at it. However, she was never comfortable with numbers or mathematical concepts. I, on the other hand, thought math was fun. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy as growing up our mother would joke that the reason I excelled in math was because I substituted dollars for apples and oranges when doing word problems.

Fast forward to when my sister was 40+ years old and her husband was fired. She was panicked because she did not know the first thing about personal finance and was certain it would take an M.B.A. (she has a theater arts degree) to understand it. I sarcastically asked her if she could add and subtract, and when she acknowledged she could, I let her know she was more than qualified. However, it was my "light bulb moment" because the resulting conversation made me realize it was the financial terminology that was creating the problem, along with the fact she was creating roadblocks in her mind that did not need to exist.

Fast forward … Today, my sister's youngest daughter plays volleyball and loves the statistics – whether hers, her teammates, or the team and where they stand in terms of the competition. Is she a math wizard? Probably no more so than her mother, but her attitude toward numbers and statistics is very different. She loves them because they intrigue her and have a purpose. So much so that, much to her mother's amazement, she voluntarily took a statistics course. Which is something I would have done (actually, I did take mathematical statistics as an elective in college).

So, imagine my surprise when my sister started analyzing the statistics provided by MailChimp on last week's email newsletter – letting me know open rates and click rates, and even comparing them to previous email campaigns. We only started using MailChimp a few months ago (shortly after we launched our new website), creating newsletters to provide our followers with food-for-thought (we have nothing to sell – as we have not even put our bestselling book on the site … yet).

I know that if I had asked my sister to "analyze data" she would have freaked out (that is her default setting), but because the numbers had a purpose and were clearly presented, her curiosity prompted her to review them. Which, besides giving information on our email campaign, provided proof that …

When something is relevant, we seem to ignore the mental roadblocks that we might otherwise have built.
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Black has said, on more than one occasion, that having morning TV shows playing in the background while I work reduces my level of concentration. Although that may, or may not, be true (as a mom I just consider it yet another source of "white noise"), I still keep doing it. And I have to say that this week, I was so glad that I did, otherwise I'd never have realized that my sister, Black, and Dr. Fauci are both Vulcans.

Yes, I know that Vulcans aren't real (watching Star Trek with my dad is one of my fonder childhood memories, although I was never a "Trekkie"), but sometime in the last decade I was at the movies enjoying my popcorn while one of the recent Star Trek movies was playing … and I had a revelation. I realized that my sister, with her non-emotional and highly pragmatic way of looking at everything (and I mean everything – including relationships, if you can believe that) was Vulcan-like. Which explained so much, including why I always have to explain the "mere mortal" perspective to her. For her, emotions get in the way and prevent looking at things logically.

Fast forward to this week and the incredibly tragic news of the U.S. reaching 500,000 coronavirus deaths. Dr. Fauci was being interviewed by CBS This Morning, and I'll admit that I wasn't really paying any attention until I heard the doctor being asked,

Is there ever a moment when you have time to get emotional about this?

At that point, Dr. Fauci had my full and undivided attention. And I just had to laugh, and think of Black, when he replied, without hesitation,

No, I don't. And that's the point.

And then he proceeded to explain that it's not that he's a very cold person, but that you can't let emotions drive what you do. He emphasized the need to be empathic, but that you need to stay focused on the task at hand. By then, although the words were coming from Dr. Fauci, the sentiments might just as well have been from my sister.

And just as I've learned never to question my sister's unemotional, highly analytical approach to everything, I had to smile at the thought that now Black's not the only Vulcan that I "know". And respect.

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

For Black, Valentine's Day is a reminder, a mindset, and a year-round approach to life. Based on death. Confused? Red was. Until Black explained her "logic", which gave Red a warm and fuzzy feeling as she saw how it could help her become her year-round best – not only for herself, but for others in her life.

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