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October 29, 2011

Just Me. In a room sunk down in a house in a town.

MR is at the CR Society Conference that I couldn't go to because work is way too busy with an election on Nov. 17 - 18 and five different campaigns sparking up at once. In a completely bizarre occurance for October, it's snowing here. I had to drive to a meeting with unorganized health care workers in the snow, and basically thought I would die the entire way there and back. Glad to be home, cat in lap, working on my midterm for one of my classes and wondering for the four thousandth time if I'm just an idiot for pursuing graduate school part time while working a more than full time job, trying to keep up a house, etc. etc. etc.

"I won't go as a passenger no, waiting for the road to be laid," says Sara Barailles over my iPod. I think that's why I'm in graduate school. I don't want to be just a passenger on this train wreck that is our health care system. I want to understand it better so that I can better lead the nurses and other health care workers who have entrusted me with the responsibility to know about these things. I'm an excellent organizer, but I want to be more than that. I actually want to be a leader in the discussion of what health care should look like in the rest of this century. It's funny how the union busters like to talk about organizers as though we're salespeople, when we all know we could make a lot more money with a lot less stress by actually going into sales. Teaching people that by joining together they can empower themselves, protect their families, and more effectively advocate for their patients: that's not easy, glamourous, fun or well-paid. But some days it works and when it works, it's the best thing ever.

I miss my epidemiology class with its tables and numbers and odds ratios. I had come to depend on the numbers as my escape from my "real" life of human emotion. Yet I love health policy, and am finding it so fulfilling to learn more about this health care system with which I have interacted for my entire adult life. My health policy class is amazing, and I learn more every day.

This was a terrible eating week. I think sometimes that self-discipline really is a zero-sum game. I ate meeting pizza, a bagel that a co-worker brought to a staff meeting, etc. etc. etc. Didn't gain weight but didn't eat healthy. Still hitting yoga most days but not doing enough cardio now that it's too cold out (note the snow!) to go for long walks. Must join office gym and treadmill. I know better than most how important healthy habits are at crunch time and at least I've made time for yoga classes, but it's hard to do it all when I could work 18 hours a day every day.

Off to bed soon... more soon...

Posted by april at 5:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 21, 2011

Who were you then? Who are you now?

Such a drag, to want something sometime
One thing leads to another.

-- The Pretenders, "Talk of the Town"

Maybe it's finally here. The moment I've spent nine, no sixteen, no thirty-seven years waiting for. "The revolution is upon us," I wrote to my co-workers as I reported on my meetings with nurses. Finally, people are waking up from recession-fatigue and realizing that we don't have to take whatever punishment our employers hand us. Together, we can be strong. We have rights. It was 2001, just November of 2001, when one of my nurse activists said, "Ladies, this is not Afghanistan." We have rights, but only if we are wiling to enforce them.

It's been such a long time coming. A long dry spell... nobody would even give their name when they called me to say they wanted the union. "I'm sorry but the union fairy can't land on your rooftop," I wanted to say.

Now things are different. Within a month we have been contacted by multiple hospitals with smart, brave, motivated nurses ready to do what it takes to take back the power.

It's exciting times. Times when I am so busy that I can barely hold my eyes open now. Getting home at 11 and out the door again by 6. But I'm happy... it's about time. Nurses talk about being able to give the care they were trained to deliver. I am ready to do the organizing I was trained, bred, born to do.

Of course holding onto healthy habits is hard when we're busy, but it's even more important. Making sure I keep up with my healthy eating and exercise when things are busy is more essential than ever because I have to be in top form.

So what did I eat today?

Out the door at six to meet nurses. Brought my two hard boiled eggs, lovingly boiled and bagged by MR, as well as my 30 g almonds. Drank two cups of coffee at morning meeting and then ate the breakfast while doing a million things in the office.

Caught a noon to 12:50 yoga class before my 1:30 meeting. Worked out hard. Working out is essential to my health and sanity (not like those two can be separated!)

At Starbucks for 1:30 meeting. Ate the tuna salad box (380 cals) and fruit cup (80) plus green tea. Delicious! More carbs than usual but am losing weight a bit faster than necessarily would want to these days so didn't worry about it.

Excellent meeting with one of my favorite nurses ever, then got home close to six, put together MR's dinner (eggplant stuffed with broccoli and cilantro with Mrs. Dash's Fiesta Lime, lime juice and chipotle Tabasco) and a side of mustard green stems, broccoli and cabbage. It was my first night having dinner at home since Sunday, and it was nice to have Kieffer purring in my lap and MR enjoying his food at his place at table while we caught up.

I had 300 g of MR's excellent mashed cauliflower (95 cals total) with 2 laughing cow lights melted in topped with 1 tsp flax oil and two glasses of red wine. Finishing the second now and about to fall very asleep!

Tomorrow is grocery shopping, yoga, house cleaning, school work,and work calls. These days I find everything balances each other out: I love doing the big meetings where I can help nurses get the power they deserve, and I love withdrawing on the weekends or late at night or early in the morning into the world of cancer research, burying myself in the letters of Lasker and Farber and letting the epidemiologist take over for a few hours.

"People are scared now," I said last night in a meeting. "But over time, as more and more of you come to meetings, you will acquire herd immunity. You will protect the weaker ones through your own strength."

That's a slightly more elegant paraphrase of what I actually said, but it's true. Social epidemiology is a field because it is real: you are what you think your peer group thinks you are. As your peer group becomes less afraid (or thinner, or more health conscious, or less likely to smoke, or you name it) you become more likely to become so.

"Find out what you are and be that," was a quote from the old movie, "Dead Again."

I am an organizer epidemiologist and an epidemiologist organizer. I see health care as a house of mirrors with each aspect reflecting back on each other one. My nurses face short staffing crises and can't give the care they were trained to deliver; in my classes I learn how the system is stretched to its financial limits.

Coordination, education, and prevention are the cornerstones of solving the problem. When I work with nurse leaders I am ecstatic to realize that I am meeting the next generation of problem solvers.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
You've changed your place in this world

sing the Pretenders over my iPod.

I do believe the moment is here. It will come in fits and starts, but the groundwork is laid. The Revolution is here, and it will be a peaceful revolution of nurses gaining the power they deserve, to stand up for their patients and the profession of caring for others, of being the advocate for those who can not speak for themselves.

It's about time.

Posted by april at 5:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 20, 2011

My Good Karma Day

Wednesday started rather uneventfully. Did some school work, made MR's dinner in advance (a collection of leftovers from Canadian Thanksgiving plus a cabbage and mustard green salad with Italian seasonings) since it was class night. Went to work... things are extremely busy, but I did manage to get in a noon yoga class before heading downtown to stop by the National Labor Relations Board and file a card before my class.

Or so I thought.

Packed my things, walked to the train. Waited.

And waited.

It was raining. We were cold. There were about fifteen of us standing there and as always happens in trench warfare, we rapidly became a band of brothers (or sisters) as we waited for the train that never came.

After about an hour and fifteen minutes of this (while there were no announcements and the website said nothing informative) someone called SEPTA and they said no, there would be no train. A tractor trailer somehow impaled itself on the tracks somewhere along the line.

Some people had cars and decided to drive, but several of my would-be train-mates were stranded. One woman was trying to catch an Amtrak train to Florida, from whence she would leave on a cruise with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandkids. If she didn't catch her train, she's miss her cruise.

"Okay guys," I said, "I'll go home and get my car and be back to pick you up in fifteen minutes."

Sandy had the train to catch. Diane worked out near me but lived in West Philly. Dave was an independent contractor who lived in Manyunk but was doing some contract work in Conshy. All were cold, wet and stranded.

I didn't tell MR that I was taking three strangers into town because he would have been worried, but I figured that random people waiting for a train weren't likely to be serial killers. I mean, serial killers have cars, right?

We also picked up Claire who had taken the train to work and would have been stuck. So we all piled into my tiny Geo Prizm, and off we went.

Dave passed out granola bars as in-ride snacks. Sandy told us about her upcoming cruise. Diane just made sure we didn't take Kelly Drive, which to her credit is notoriously dangerous.

Dave was dropped in Manyunk, the traffic gods smiled upon us, and Sandy made her train in plenty of time. Diane got out to help Sandy with her luggage and make sure she boarded safely before hopping a subway for the thirteen blocks home. Claire hopped a seven minute train ride to her usual stop.

They tried to give me some cash but I refused, and just asked them to send me good thoughts for my upcoming union election. Karma beats cash any day.

Earlier that day I had loaned a pair of yoga pants to a fellow yogini who had forgotten hers. If that's not good karma, I don't know what is.

I had enough time before class to treat myself to a salad at my favorite salad spot, the Marathon Grill. My Control Freak salad (yes, that's what they really call it): romaine, free range turkey, oven roasted tomatoes, grilled onions, kalamata olives, goat cheese, blue cheese dressing on the side (I just use a few dabs) and red wine vinegar on the side.

Class was awesome, as always, and then I worked for two hours with my group mates on a group project, thinking the entire time that none of them had to get up at 5 am to meet a nurse at 6:45 to get flyers into the hospital. Well, the ER resident in the group could definitely give me some competition in the busy-ness arena.

It was a good karma day, all around.

What I ate yesterday:

2 hard boiled eggs
1 Chicken Parmesean Lean Cuisine
1 giant Marathon Grill salad
2 pieces of string cheese
1 glass of wine when I got home from class

Happy Karma to all!

Not sure on the calories though it was 440 before the salad,

Posted by april at 9:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 18, 2011

Thanks, and a lunch on the go tip!

Hi everybody... first I just want to say thanks so much for all the wonderful comments! Sometimes I really wonder if anyone is still reading this blog, and lately you've left a bunch of really encouraging comments! Thank you for your support and encouragement... it's a two way street!

Meanwhile, I've made an excellent lunch-on-the-go discovery! There's a Chipotle Grill right next to a location where I meet with many of my nurses, and so yesterday I ducked in for a super fast lunch between a quick noon 50 minutes Pilates class and a series of afternoon meetings. I had literally fifteen minutes to eat but they are fast and fresh as promised. I had the burrito bowl, which is a burrito without the high carb tortilla, and it was delicious! I also told them to hold the rice, so I just had pinto beans (you can also have black beans) chicken, two kinds of salsa with fresh tomatoes, and lettuce plus just a dash of cheese. They also have steak, barbeque pork and some kind of other chicken but I just had grilled. Their guacamole is good too but I skipped it this time. Doing the math of subtracting the rice, I am fairly confident that my burrito bowl added up to no more than 500 calories... more than I would usually eat for lunch but at 1:15 pm and after a serious Pilates class, I was really, really hungry, and I had a light dinner of cauliflower mash with two Laughing Cow Lites mashed in and flax oil, pretty much my standard these days.

I love it when fast food restaurants give low carb options. The bowl without the rice is great, and you could even skip the beans if you were that adamant though I hope they'd make it up to you in meat. The only regret is that they don't have enough veggies. But nobody's perfect. They also use free range, antibiotic free meats, another big plus.

Posted by april at 4:02 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 17, 2011

MR's Awesome Entree

Portabellos topped with Worcestershire and tons of fresh sage, then layered on pumpkin (canned, no salt) with garlic and a few dots of chipotle Tabasco, then topped with non-fat cheddar. Side dish will be asparagus and carrots with lemon pepper and some leftover mustard green and napa cabbage stems. Of course included is tons of olive oil, flax oil,l hazelnuts and olives, and his miniature 3 oz serving of pinot noir. Lightweight!

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October 16, 2011

You've Got Pears!

Early on Saturday morning as I shopped for our groceries I heard an ad for peas over the loudspeaker at our grocery store. You don't exactly have to convince me to buy pears. I am a fan.

Over the weekend, I made MR some bizarre pear dishes, both of which turned out well.

Sagacious Pears and Zucchini:
About three small or two large zukes, diced
3/4 a big green pear, diced
50 g Quorn of you could use chicken, turkey, or nothing
Lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar
About half a bunch of fresh sage, diced.

Coated the pears in lemon juice, stirred in the other ingredients, heated for two mins in the microwave. He liked it! Yes, it was weird, but it was good.

Curried Pears and Zukes:
A pear
Lemon juice
a tiny dash of cider vinegar

Mix, steam for two mins. Really good.

You've got pears!

Posted by april at 3:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 13, 2011

Sorry I've been away...

Hey y'all!!!

I've been spaced out or rather totally focused on multiple campaigns, including one where we just filed for an election, plus my two courses for my MPH plus attempting to maintain some semblance of life with my partner and family, so I'm so sorry I've missed you guys! And I come back to so many fabulous comments!

More soon, I promise. I just had a sixteen hour incredibly successful day, and am feeling inspired and exhausted. Must crash!


Posted by april at 9:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 5, 2011

What I Ate Yesterday And Why

Tuesday: Up at 5, 1 hour of classwork, 20 minutes home yoga practice.

Left at 7:30 to meet co-worker at Starbucks up the road and ride together to a meeting in a town two hours away.

Her car broke down on the way. I ride alone! Spinach feta wrap for breakfast with venti coffee.

Meeting when three hours. Starving on the way home I picked up two string cheeses (60 cals each) at turnpike stop and ate them with my 30 g almonds and a tall nonfat latte.

Dinner: 1 cup cottage cheese with a bunch of Trader Joe's Salsa Verde (big favorite!!!) with one tsp flax oil and a bunch of celery sticks with nonfat sour cream.

It was too late once I realized that I hadn't really eaten vegetables. Oooooops.

This morning I had my eggwhite breakfast with two whole plum tomatoes chopped and cooked in and about 50 go shiitake mushrooms. Lunch was cottage cheese (1 cup) and 1 hard boiled egg. Tonight is class night so after work I'll head downtown, my almonds in hand, to study how to save our failing health care system. Then I'll come home and eat some veggies, I promise!

Posted by april at 1:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 4, 2011

Ask Harvard Why They're Still Recommending Whole Grains

Wow. Harvard School of Public Health is hosting a call in day! That's nuts! No, that's grains! Their Healthy Eating Plate is only marginally better than the USDA's new creation, whatever they call it, I've lost track.

My pal Jimmy Moore has a great blog entry about it here

Dr. Feinman writes about it here.

Fred Hahn chimes in here.

I don't have time to write any more about this now, but check out these low carb experts' blogs and call in!

Posted by april at 4:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gary Taubes and Juicing

Two totally unrelated topics that I am addressing at once because I have minutes to blog before hitting the road for a meeting two hours or so away.

Re: Gary Taubes: I've never read his work but people I respect are huge fans. For me, low carb works best. I believe it is the best solution for a lot of people who have trouble controlling their hunger, and I am absolutely certain that that the demonization of fat has been a contributor to the obesity epidemic. I haven't read most of the popular authors on low carb because I get so much of my information directly from Dr. Feinman that I don't really need to read the popular stuff. And frankly, after ten years of reading every pop nutrition book I could get my hands on, I've burnt out on them a bit and prefer reading scientific papers. But I hear that Taubes is great, and encourage others to check him out.

Re: juicing: no, we don't do that. We don't object to it, we just like our food whole well enough. MR really likes volume, so squishing his food would be rather counter-productive. The closest thing I do to juicing is that in summer I make big batches of gazpacho in the food processor. The key is what you eat, not the consistency. Beyond that I think it's just a matter of taste.

Quick review of what I ate yesterday:

1 cup eggwhites with one slice nonfat cheddar, with two tomatoes and a handful of shiitake mushrooms chopped up in it. One more veggie I think we can call the thing a fritatta!
+ 1 tsp flax oil and 1/2 tbsp walnut oil

30 g almonds
1 bag big frozen veggies (160 Cals)

Starbucks nonfat latte, grande

300 g mashed cauliflower with two lauging cow lights on top and 1 tsp flax oil.

bedtime snack:
4 or so spoonfulls of lowfat cottage cheese

I often get asked why I still eat nonfat dairy and eggwhites. The answer for me is fairly simple: it's a good way to save calories while preserving protein and other nutrients like calcium. I get my fat mostly from unsaturated sources like flax and almonds. However, I do eat several hard boiled eggs per week.

Today I'm on the road and probably going to have my quick and easy treat, the 280 calorie Starbucks spinach feta wrap. Haven't had one in about a month. Looking forward to it.

Off to practice yoga before hitting the road!

Posted by april at 4:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack