Friday, February 28, 2014


     I feel like I am a center of some universe. It's a small universe, grant you, but I suddenly feel that I have the gravitational force to keep things and people around me in place and moving. It's an interesting experience. I wonder, if God, to some unimaginably humongous degree, feels the same? Good things and bad things spin around, touch my life and, somehow, get sorted out into their own place, where I can deal with them or leave them be.
     I feel empowered, that's what the name for it is! Perhaps, because the world exists on reciprocal relationships, the fact that I, mostly, stopped just reacting to events or words or deeds but try to respond to them the best way I can, makes all the difference on the outcomes of those interactions and what I take from them. 
     Roberta had a gall bladder operation today. Last night I helped her get her things ready and take a shower. We discussed the next day in every detail. Park took off the day before to go on business to Las Vegas. He was not going to come back in time to go to the hospital with us, although, all the while I told Roberta that, one never knows, what Park will actually end up doing! 
     I set my alarm to wake up at 5:45 am. When it rang this morning, I looked at the clock and saw: 6:32! Somehow, lines in my brain got crossed, and now it was much later than it should've been. I ran to bathroom and then - to Roberta's room. Knock-knock... Knock-knock... 
     The room was dark. On the floor there was Park's mattress. It meant that he came back despite his earlier assurances. No one answered my calls, though! 
     The phone rang at that moment. "Dina!" - Roberta's voice! - "I am at the hospital already! We decided that we didn't need to bother and make you also come here!" 
     It took me a few minutes to sort through my emotions. I did feel a bit disenfranchised. It was a very abrupt departure from last night's plans, after all! Through annoyance I heard a small voice of my conscience: "It's up to them. leave it alone!" 
     I went back to bed. In the afternoon Park called and told me that, operation went well and Roberta is already in her room under the nurses' care. He, as usual, didn't listen to anything I said, but I was insulated from that by my newly found detachment. 
     A few months ago I would've been livid. Now I understand the limits of my involvement in Roberta's life and am capable of looking at things coolly. Progress? I'd say so! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Incredible Power Of Concentration - Miyoko Shida

Isn't it beautiful? And poignant. Many things give support and keep the feather in place, but without it they all fall apart. It's like a metaphor for every human's value in the Universe. And a woman's figure is in the midst of it...


     It's been a few days since I wrote anything. I try to stick to my diet and think: "Higher Power". Still, the whole Saturday, I ate usual food instead of the shakes and bars prescribed in my diet.
     An acquaintance has been asking me to start going out as couples. Davis and his wife, Kyoko, met us at a Vietnamese restaurant on Saturday. I planed to just have a salad, but they had no salads there that didn't include deep fried chicken. So, I had half a portion of grilled chicken and veges. Although it's a minute part of what I would've eaten without the diet, it was a lot more than I should've eaten. 
     I know that couple for a long time. She is Japanese and he is American. I've always felt that she was inexplicably too reserved whenever we talked. As we tried to make a conversation, I was struck by the way Kyoko treated David. Perhaps, it was an attempt to get back at him for bringing her into a social situation that she tried to avoid, but she was decidedly unpleasant to him. 
     He began talking about our church and the necessity of change. She said to him repeatedly: "Why-y-y do you have to say these things?! Why-y-y do you have to make a change?! I don't like it! I don't like you!" Taka and I have our problems, but I would never talk to him that way in front of others! David asked me: "What do you think, Dina, should I follow Kyoko's advice and keep quiet?" I said: "If there was something worth saving in our church, I would say - go for it, rile things up. But since, in my opinion, there is nothing to save, - I say - listen to your wife!" I was partially trying to show that I was on Kyoko's side, although my nature is, usually, to be a rebel. As we continued to talk, Kyoko was unmoved by any reasons that David put out in favor of him speaking against the church policies. Taka and I squirmed in our seats from the embarrassment of hearing the wife being so unsupportive and outright hostile to her husband, although this was also the first time that I heard Taka talk about the church and that there have to be some changes made. After we left the restaurant, Taka said: "I think, she doesn't realize that she is married to an American! She is very traditional in her thinking, as a Japanese: not wanting to stir things up at any cost." 
     I made a promise to a young lady from the Al Anon meeting to pick her up in my car and bring to a monthly fellowship, that was going to happen that same evening. So, I drove to Oakland (the middle of "the hood", like my other friend called that area) and met her there. She is a 38 years old American, but looks like she is in her twenties. We found the church where the meeting was going to happen with some difficulty. I think, she lost her confidence in my being able to get her to the right place a couple of times on that trip.! It was a smaller gathering this time: last time a few districts held it together. Mr. P. was one of the speakers. Another one was a man representing the AA. It was interesting to hear about his road to recovery and the process of finding a motivation for it, except at the times when he read quotes from one of the books. At those moments, his voice lost all intonation and he would mumble under his breath something that no one could understand.
     I was feeling a bit down, because my conscience bothered me for getting a little of the salad and meatballs at the meeting, so I was just biding my time until we could go home. 
     Mr. P. came up to the podium and gave his talk. He is an eloquent and engaging speaker, so I woke up for a time from my doom. 
     Before we left the meeting, I asked some ladies whom I knew, if I could call or text them in the morning and evenings about how my diet was going. They were very warm and receptive and that made my mood better.
     I followed the young woman whom I now had to bring back to Oakland down the the church stairs. She took them in one step, while I had to struggle from one stair to another, minding my aching feet. She was watching me from the sidewalk, and I felt embarrassed by my clumsy progress. My habit is to hide the embarrassment by a bravado, so I blurted out in a friendly tone: "Watch your weight!" 
     I don't know, what I expected, but not that! She began to share with me her anxiety about, possibly, gaining weight and losing her health! Wasn't that a welcome respite from the misery of my usual self-doubt! I could talk openly with her about the habits of eating and the foods that brought me to such sorry state and could be harmful to her. She is a very kind soul, anyway! 
     That whole day was a mixed bag of nuts! I mean that, some experiences and people that I met were inspiring, and some... well... weren't. I took some steps to get a better grip on my diet, but still doubt my ability to succeed. And, as I write that, I remind myself that, I am not alone in my struggle. HEAVENLY FATHER will lend me some strength, MY HIGHER POWER will lead me to better health and well-being!     

Friday, February 21, 2014


     What happened was, I went to see Mr. P., my therapist (or a counsel). I've been meeting with him for half a year, and in that time, my life changed in ways that I wouldn't have believed before. I mean, I was already on a path to a better life, since I began to write this blog and get encouragement from all my wonderful readers, as well as taking steps, for once, to improve my health and mental stability. No, I wasn't crazy, but my life was burdened by difficult relationships  and bad health. I tried therapy with a lady with a degree and an office and office hours. She gave me some support, but in a year of seeing her I hardly understood anything yet of the real reasons for my problems and how to eradicate them. 
     Fortunately for me, my insurance changed, which meant that I couldn't continue with the same therapist. I tried Kaiser, but they only were going to let me be in group therapy. My friends, meanwhile, were telling me of this Mr. P. guy, who transformed their lives. I resisted, but he called me and said that he'd give me a free session to decide if it was worth my time to see him.
     It was, kind of, weird: he wanted to meet with me at a diner! Well, I've seen weirder things in my life, so I agreed. At that time I had a lot of problems with Park, whose character and demeanor were that of a spoiled five year old girl. I told Mr. P. about that. He gave me some advice, which, when I used it, immediately brought great results. I was hooked! 
     Mr. P. has no office. He doesn't drive car. He puts thirty lbs. of books and other stuff in saddle bags on his bicycle and rides it to meet clients in a library or in different cafes around our area. I didn't question him too much about it: my philosophy is that it's always better to do something (even when it looks strange to others) than to sit on one's behind, doing nothing. Mr. P. also is an author of numerous books and a blog titled: An Attitude of Gratitude (An Answer to Despair Rampant in Society), as well as a frequent motivational speaker. 
     So, since the start of my being Mr. P.'s client, he gave me a lot of the invaluable advice in dealing with my husband, Taka and children. Sometimes, I was stubborn or Mr. P. showed his Latin temper (he is Mexican), but, like I said in the beginning, my life and relationships changed in ways that I wouldn't have ever believed. 
     For one, I used non-violent communication techniques to talk to Taka, and he responded wonderfully, changing things that made our marriage difficult. There are still things that we need to work on, but our day to day communication and attitude towards each other improved dramatically. Hanah, my college age daughter, also reacted miraculously well to some requests that I made in a manner prescribed by Mr. P., so - it's like day and night in comparison to her earlier behavior. Park, who, unfortunately, continues to be a problem, tries not to get into face to face battles with me, because he is obviously intimidated by calm, straight and strong stance that I take with him. 
     So, this is whom I went to see today, Mr. P. 
     He always gives me homework to do. Last time it was: 
1. Requesting three of my friends to be my support in dieting. The idea is that, I would call them in the morning and say that I am still doing it and in the evening to report, how well I stuck to the diet. 
2. Increasing the number of exercise days.
3. Make Tuesday and Saturday days when I can cheat a little bit on the diet. Keep strong on other days.
     I could only manage adding one more day of exercise to my routine. Calling my friends and imposing on them seemed impossible and embarrassing. As for cheating a little on two days of the week, - it turned into cheating a t-i-i-i-n-y bit on all of them!
     Mr. P. looked me in the eye today and asked: "So, what do you think are the reasons why you can't follow your diet?" 
     I was coming to this realization for a while now. It is time to admit it: I am addicted to food. I have a food habit. To make sure, we all have to eat, of course, but because of my sedentary way of life and overeating, I brought myself to a terrible shape. And since the start of the Weight Management Program, it became very clear: I am not able to stop harmful habits. I have enough nourishment with nutrition shakes and bars to not be hungry at all, but something bigger than me makes me reach out for and hysterically crave usual foods! 
     The first step to recovery in AA and Al Anon is to admit that I have an addiction which I am powerless to control and my life became unmanageable because of this. So, I say it now: I have an addiction to overeating, which I am powerless to control, and my life became unmanageable because of this. It was very hard to say it and believe it at first. Thank God for Al Anon meetings that brought me to this realization!
     So, I admit that on my own I can't deal successfully with overeating. The next step is to believe that my Higher Power, Heavenly God and my conscience, can help me. The third - to turn my will and life over to the will of God. 
     I admitted that I am powerless about my addiction. My, more than thirty years' nurtured, conditioning, though, is that I need to make an all-out-effort to overcome difficulties, and God might step in then. It's still very hard for me to say that I will not be able to make that effort; not enough to stop cheating on the diet and not enough to keep the weight off, when I lose it. What is that thin line between trust in God and weakness of spirit? 
     What I did was, I prayed. I prayed as I was driving home from my appointment with Mr. P. I asked Heavenly Father and Mother and Jesus to come into my life and help me deal with overeating and other harmful habits. I am constantly checking myself for signs of spiritual bravado. I need to be sincere. If you think that I should not talk about this until I get some results, - too bad. I can't get results. I will get them only with the help of my Higher Power. Please, if you pray, also pray for me, or just keep me in your thoughts. God bless!


     Last night I went to the Al Anon meeting. As usual, I had misgivings, whether I belong there, whether I go just to hear myself talk. Nevertheless, I met with a couple of other ladies and we drove to Alameda.
     Many people attended. The topic was the Second Tradition of Al Anon. I didn't study yet the steps and traditions, so I will just tell you what I understood. The Second Tradition is to do with the fact that, there is only one authority - God - and He/She may express themselves through a group consciousness. Some people shared, but the topic was such an easily accepted fact that, most of us had nothing to say. 
     Then one young man shared his struggles to maintain faith in the face of life's challenges. I sat next to him, and something just clicked in my heart. Sentences began to form with lightening speed, I could hardly wait to get them out, but still hesitated to say the words. What if I was being vain? What if I just assumed that I understood a little portion of truth, when so many times before I missed the mark completely? It took just a moment for that whole thought process to occur, but at that same moment someone else volunteered to talk! I felt relieved, kind of, but then I thought: "What if those thoughts that I almost expressed were for someone else's benefit? What if they can find a grain of truth or confidence from my ramblings?" 
      I guess, my inner struggle was visible to others. At that time, Mr. P. queried: "Dina do you have something to say?" Well, I didn't expect that at all! "Yes!" - I blurted!
     "When I just began to believe in God and find out about religious life and Christianity, I had a chance to talk to someone about Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked his Heavenly Father to "let this cup pass...", remember? I offered an idea that, perhaps, Jesus was, in part, talking to his own conscience! Maybe, that was the moment when he himself had to decide whether to give up his life for the sake of God's Will or not. I was gently dissuaded from that idea then, but since coming to Al Anon and hearing the concept of 'my Higher Power', I think that I was right. In times of crises and indecision, we find the Higher Power not only in God, but also in ourselves. It's our conscience, our soul. We find and bare it and ask it to guide us in the right direction."
     I saw people around the table listen intently but, later, I began to wonder again, whether I overstepped some bounds, was too wordy and smug in my revelation. I began to imagine that young man next to me looked annoyed. 
     I have no idea if I'm right. Should I have kept it inside? According to my own decision to try to curb my words-diarrhea, yes, I should've. And then there is a small chance that I needed to talk. That is just a time for MY HIGHER POWER to lead me to a correct answer. Please!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Five Vitamins and Supplements That Are Actually Worth Taking

Science tells us that taking most vitamins is worthless—but here's a few that buck the trend

Recently, a number of studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine underscored a fact that scientists have become increasingly sure of: The vast majority of vitamins and mineral supplements are simply not worth taking. "Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements," declared an editorial that was published in the issue.
This goes for a tremendous range of supplements that you might imagine to be beneficial. Multivitamins don't reduce the chance of cancer or cardiovascular disease. Controlled, randomized studies—where one group of people take supplements and another takes placebos, and the groups are compared—have produced little evidence that antioxidants protect against cancer. Study after studyhas shown that vitamin C does nothing to prevent common cold, a misbelief that dates to a theoretical suggestion made by a scientist in the 1970's.
Of course, our bodies do need these vitamins to live—it's just that the diet of most people who live in developed countries in the 21st century already includes them in abundance. In many cases, taking high amounts of them in a refined form (especially vitamins A, C and E and beta carotene) can actually be harmful, increasing the risk of cancer and other diseases by excessively inflating the concentration of antioxidants in the body.
Nevertheless, there are a handful of vitamins and supplements that, studies suggest, are actually worth taking for people with specific conditions. Information is Beautifula data visualization website, has a thought-provoking interactive that shows supplements charted by the strength of evidence that indicates they're beneficial. Here's our rundown of some of the most promising.

(Photo by Colin Dunn)

​Vitamin D
Of all the "classic" vitamins—the vital organic compounds discovered between 1913 and 1941 and termed vitamin A, B, C, etc.—vitamin D is by far the most beneficial to take in supplement form.
A 2008 meta-analysis (a review of a number of studies conducted on the same topic) of 17 randomized controlled trials concluded that it decreased overall mortality in adults. A 2013 meta-analysis of 42 randomized controlled trials came to the same conclusion. In other words, by randomly deciding which participants took the supplement and which didn't and tightly controlling other variables (thereby reducing the effect of confounding factors), the researchers found that adults who took vitamin D supplements daily lived longer than those who didn't.
Other research has found that in kids, taking vitamin D supplements can reduce the chance of catching the flu, and that in older adults, it can improve bone health and reduce the incidence of fractures.
Of course, even though they're widely recognized as the best way to test a treatment's effectiveness,randomized controlled trials have limitations. In this case, the biggest one is that these studies can't tell us much about the mechanism by which vitamin D seems to reduce mortality or provide other healthbenefits. Still, given the demonstrated benefits and the fact that it hasn't been shown to cause any harm, vitamin D might be worth taking as a supplement on a consistent basis. 
A mounting pile of research is showing how crucial the trillions of bacterial cells that live inside us are in regulating hour health, and how harmful it can be to suddenly wipe them out with an antibiotic. Thus, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that if you do go through a course of antibiotics, taking a probiotic(either a supplement or a food naturally rich in bacteria, such as yogurt) to replace the bacteria colonies in your gut is a good idea.
In 2012, a meta-analysis of 82 randomized controlled trials found that use of probiotics (most of which contained bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus, naturally present in the gastrointestinal tract) significantly reduced the incidence of diarrhea after a course of antibiotics.
All the same, probiotics aren't a digestive cure-all: they haven't been found to be effective in treatingirritable bowel syndrome, among other chronic ailments. Like most other supplements that are actually effective, they're useful in very specific circumstances, but it's not necessary to continually take them on a daily basis.
Vitamin C might not do anything to prevent or treat the common cold, but the other widely-used cold supplement, zinc, is actually worth taking. A mineral that's involved in many different aspects of your cellular metabolism, zinc appears to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the microbes that cause the common cold.
This has been borne out in a number of studies. A 2011 review [PDF] that considered 13 therapeutic studies—in which patients who'd just come down with the common cold were given zinc supplements, and compared to those who'd been given a placebo—found that the mineral significantly reduced the duration of the cold, and also made symptoms less severe. So if you feel a cold coming on, avoid overdosing on vitamin C, but take a zinc lozenge or pill to get better sooner.
Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is talked up as a cure for all sorts of conditions (including high cholesterol, Alzheimer's, diabetes and headaches) but in most of these cases, a prescription-strength dose of niacin has been needed to show a clear result.
At over-the-counter strength, niacin supplements have only been proven to be effective in helping one group of people: those who have heart disease. A 2010 review found that taking the supplement daily reduced the chance of a stroke or heart attack in people with heart disease, thereby reducing their overall risk of death due to a cardiac event.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Jonathunder)

Garlic, of course, is a pungent herb. It also turns out to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure when taken as a concentrated supplement. 
A 2008 meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials (in which similar groups of participants were given either a garlic supplement or placebo, and the results were compared) found that, on the whole, taking garlic daily reduced blood pressure, with the most significant results coming in adults who had high blood pressure at the start of the trials.
On the other hand, there have also been claims that garlic supplements can prevent cancer, but the evidence is mixed. Observational studies (which rely on data collected from people already taking garlic supplements on their own) have found associations between garlic consumption and a reduced incidence of cancer, but that correlation could be the result of confounding factors. Controlled studies have failed to replicate that data. 


    All day yesterday, I sat in front of the laptop. Park, in his "wisdom" told his church that he will make lunch for people there. He bought lots of food in the Korean market (took money from Roberta, whose account is now overdrawn because of it. He is not gonna pay it back either!). From morning to 3 in the afternoon, he boiled and stirred and mixed and chopped. The house filled with delectable aromas, which didn't help me keep a good attitude about my diet. Still I kept eating only the bars and drinking shakes. I tried a tiny piece of chicken that he offered, though: YUMmmmmm! 
     I felt that I needed to do something to offset my bad behavior the night before, namely, swallowing everything that looked remotely edible, so I called Mary and asked if she wanted to go to the pool. It was her day to go for a well-check for the same Weight Management Program which I am on. "Come there too, they'll weigh you!" - Mary said. Although I said no to her, after our conversation finished, I still looked at the phone for a few seconds, then jumped up, took a shower, got dressed, grabbed Roberta (over Park's objections) and drove to Kaiser through the evening rush hour traffic. 
     Mary was happy to see me in the waiting room. She encouraged me and tisked over Taka's lack of support and my own lack of will power. She also waited for me, while I was being weighed. I lost 3 lbs. last week! I don't know, of course, if I lost more but gained some back because of my grazing, but even so - it was a better news than the one I expected!
    I still am getting used to the new order of business. This diet, although it provides more than enough nourishment for the body, still leaves me yearning for the familiar, lovely flavors of meat, pasta, potatoes, rice. Anything salty would do too. Last night, Taka, who is not supportive at all, sat next to me, munching on some rice and pickles, -  favorite Japanese fare. My mouth just filled with saliva at the sight of that green, still moist from the jar, bumpy pickle! "Sonny!" - I yelled - "Bring me a pickle, stat!" Sonny was at the computer, working on something for his dad. Taka made scrumptious noises, crunching and slurping his food from the chopsticks. I couldn't take it anymore!
     "Sonny, - less typing - more bringing your mother her pickle!"
     It turned out that, Sonny was checking, how many calories a pickle has! At least he is mindful of my diet. Good boy! But when he declared that pickle had too much sodium, which is not good for my regiment, I exploded: "I will take a cucumber instead! Just bring it quick!" 
     Sonny proceeded to check, how many calories are in a cucumber. I was looking pleadingly at Taka, who took the last bite of his pickle and followed it with a chopsticks-full of rice. "What," - he asked smugly - "You have your own, and very expensive, food!"
     I lifted my eyes to Sonny. I guess, he read something in them that made him give up on his conscientious research and run to the refrigerator. Both, he and Taka laughed at the supreme bliss on my face, as I bit into a pickle and leaned back with a sigh. As with many things that one awaits and obsesses with, a pickle was, actually, a bit of a let down: it was too salty; but I would not let my guys see it!