Visiting Iceland in Winter

How many travel blogs have you stumbled upon in your quest to figure out if visiting Iceland in winter is a good idea? I’d love to tell you that you’ve finally found the post that will answer all your questions and ensure that you have a magical trip. Here is the thing though, I had no intention of visiting Iceland in winter… until I did, sort of

In our family, we aren’t big on big gifts to mark occasions like birthdays or graduations. What we are big on is escaping whenever a good excuse can be found. So, when my husband’s big Five-Oh rolled around, he asked for an epic trip to Iceland. 

I started plotting and planning well in advance and then life happened. Our planned Spring expedition soon became an early Summer aspiration.  Before I knew it, Fall had rolled into town and we had yet to get our tickets booked. 

Like any good one-time-award-winning-travel-blogger I scoured the interwebs in search of last-minute trip ideas. Right around the time that I’d annoyed every travel writer pal of mine with copious questionings, I tossed out any idea of a well-planned trip.

I hit the book button on tickets through WOW airlines and contacted a homeowner on Airbnb. Nothing like phoning it in for the half-century celebration of the birth of the man who makes my every day an adventure, huh? 

All of that lack of planning had us touching down in Keflavik on a late November morning around 5 am. It also meant that we happened to embark upon our Icelandic adventure in the midst of a freakish cold snap that had the average temperature hovering somewhere around, oh… say thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Thus we were for all intents, visiting Iceland in winter. 

Cold though it was, it was none the less magical and amazing. More to come on all of that and some planning advice for those who hope to do better than aspire to be me, in a future post. For now, I will let photos tell the story. 

 

 

Healthcare Is A Human Right

What comes to your mind when you hear someone talk about human rights? Food, education, safety, freedom of expression, the ability to pursue happiness these are things most of us can agree are, or should be, the right of every human. But what are we missing there? Heath. Is healthcare a human right too? 

It’s been a little over five years since I retired most of my packing cubes leaving the travel writing gig on a back burner to take a position as the director of a functional medicine practice. I jumped in heart-first with the bulk of my medical experience limited to being a patient, parent, and caregiver. I’ve learned so much in such a short time and one of the most heart-wrenching lessons learned was that here, in the United States, the health care system leaves many behind. 

It is with that knowledge in hand that I’ve partnered with Providence Saint Joseph’s to continue to share stories, news, statistics and the faces of Medicaid.  What I hope we all get out of this post (and previous ones) is the understanding that yes… healthcare IS a human right.

So, who or what is Providence Saint Joseph Health? Yes, they are a healthcare organization but their mission reaches far beyond the number of beds in hospitals. In the last year or two, I’ve learned so much from the work they do. I have seen the impact of that work through the people I’ve met who have honored me with allowing me to tell their stories. 

At Providence St. Joseph Health, our mission calls us to be agents of radical change for health. We’re to be a source of healing love and a beacon of hope … in the world, within each of the communities we serve, and for every person we encounter – especially those who are among the most poor and vulnerable in our society due to social conditions…”

Many of us understand that Medicaid is a government program that assists the disabled and those with low-incomes to obtain medical care. But that is a one-dimensional understanding. Veterans, children in foster care, senior citizens, those with complicated medical needs, and even expectant mothers are covered by this program. Medicaid also serves those seeking help with mental health issues that often aren’t covered by private insurance. The program plays a key role in helping to battle the opioid crisis as well. I firmly believe that understanding is the bedrock of change.

The stories below are those of real people, beneficiaries of Medicaid;  

Twenty-three years ago, a boy in Alaska was born 10 weeks early to parents who could not afford his care without Medicaid. Today, he’s a bright young teacher ready to change the world.

In California, Medicaid helps sustain the daughter of a public relations executive. Born with a rare (1,000 in the world) condition, this bright young girl requires care at a cost that eclipses the means of her two professional parents.

A young man in New Mexico manages depression and addiction through the help of Medicaid and is now on the path to rebuilding his life.

A hard-working Montana couple found themselves both facing challenging times between jobs and relied on Medicaid to help get back on their feet.

As a social media expert in Oregon searched for a new job, she needed Medicaid to help her successfully manage her Type II diabetes.

After learning her husband had dementia, a heart-broken spouse in Texas relied on Medicaid to provide him the skilled nursing home care he needed before he passed away.

An energetic 50-year-old woman in Washington experienced a catastrophic stroke, and, since her commercial insurance ran out, Medicaid has been a lifeline to help rebuild her life.

You may know someone who has a child with a rare, complex medical condition. I do. My younger brother needed life-support equipment as an infant. Equipment my young parents – a college student in grad school and a waitress- couldn’t afford it on their own. 

Maybe someone in your neighborhood lost their job and is struggling to make ends meet. This happened to my family in the 80s when the state of California went bankrupt and my dad lost his job. 

I volunteer to help fellow veterans on a regular basis who, despite having served their country, did not qualify for VA healthcare. Many have no private insurance. 

These are our stories. They highlight our commonality and reflect our own humanity. Could you shake hands with any of them and not agree that their healthcare is important and not something they should have to choose over things like food, education, safety or even happiness? 

When we understand what it is that Medicaid means for so many, then we can take up the cause. We can be the change we want to see in the world by helping others understand and then reaching out to our leaders to make sure they know that Healthcare is a human right. 

Want to learn more? Visit the Provident Saint Joesph’s website to get to know the faces of Medicaid .

This post is part of a paid partnership with Provent Saint Joseph’s Health. It is a topic I am passionate about and that I feel we all need to understand. If you have questioned their website is an excellent resource as is your state’s own Medicaid website.


It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey

thanksgiving

This is a classic post from a bygone era. One where I used to post daily… sigh. Last night, as I sat with a warm dog on my lap and a snoring teen on the sofa next to me, a blinking cursor mocking me, I just couldn’t find words to write. That brought me to my blog archives looking for inspiration to break this writer’s block. I found this post and even years later it still holds so true. I hope you’ll find some inspiration or at the very least a message that it is STILL okay to overcook the turkey. 

 

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be?  Let’s do the math.

Meat + Potatoes + Football x Pie {nap} = bliss (repeat) <— this is a formula for man holiday awesome

Me? I’m not the biggest fan. Why?

In my world Thanksgiving means weeks of planning, days of cooking, decorating, stressing and a history of storied foremothers to live up to. All of this for 20 minutes of pigging out, followed by an immediate dispersal to the sofa for the ensuing tryptophan coma.

Or am I missing something here?

Last night we got a call from my Mother-in-law. My husband’s Uncle passed away. He was elderly, but that didn’t really lessen the blow. It seems that this week is a favored time of year for fate welcome members of my family to their seats at the grownups table in the sky.

This got me thinking about my complicated relationship with this holiday.

My mom is the queen of the holidays. Before there was a Martha Stewart, there was my mom… with a tenth of the budget and a million times more personality.

Mom grew up with little to no family to speak of, bounced around from home to home, until she landed with the aunt and uncle who raised her. I think creating a Rockwellian holiday for her kids was her way of filling the need that no one ever took care of for her. I really was lucky to have that growing up.

That said, those perfect holiday decorations, meals and themes, sure are hard to recreate. Trust me, I’ve spent many years trying to. So many, I think I’ve missed out of much of the joy I could have been having with my family.

The funny thing is, as perfect as mom’s Thanksgivings were, my favorite parts were the odd things, the imperfections. The folklore of my family, the part that matters most to me are the things like…

My mom being famous for her strays. Where some people might a leave little turkey out for the neighborhood alley cats, her turkey always attracted the extra person to the table. I couldn’t tell you the name of many of them, where they came from or where they are now. They came, they ate, they left.

The year mom got so uptight dad couldn’t take it anymore so he let her have it in the face with a scoop of mashed potatoes (I’m sure I remember this wrong, but it’s how I recall it). The ensuing food fight was epic.

The other fights, those too are part of the tradition. One of my brothers is notoriously cantankerous, and it isn’t a holiday until he reminds us all of that. I’m usually the one who takes that bait, being a bit overly dramatic myself. Once the tension breaks, it’s like the best spa day ever.

Dad always does something wrong. I don’t think he even tries to fight it anymore. In fact, I suspect he secretly plots a new way to piss mom off every year. Most of us secretly root for dad, though we all know mom will win in the end.

Family is such a complicated thing, and I certainly can attest to that with my family.  You love them, even when you have a hard time reconciling all of your other feelings for them.  Sometimes our thankfulness for family comes in the form of thanks for showing us how we don’t want to do things. Sometimes it is a gratefulness for them allowing us the room to have our own imperfections.

This Thanksgiving I won’t be pressing linens, shining glassware or insisting that everyone dress for dinner. I might even opt for paper plates to make cleaning up easier. I give even myself permission to over-cook the turkey, just like mom does… and be completely okay with that.

In lovingmemory of Aunt Donna and her doll houses, Uncle Bill and the first time I ever learned about Cambodia, Aunt Paula and her sweet potato casserole, Aunt Carrol and Tryon Peake, Zio Serafino and fresh zeppole with honey

Lessons from Dogs

It was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake Bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. I often find that spending some time alone with my dog on days like these helps ease some of that grayness.

Just me and the pup, that day. The kids had slept late and my husband didn’t feel like going out in the rain.

While feeding the ducks from the red brick lined sidewalk, a man approached. He asked if he could pet my dog. Gordon loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While the dog did all his cute moves to get more scratches behind the ear, the man shared how much he loved being around dogs.  “Dogs never think twice about being nice. They seem to know if they are good to you, you’ll be nice back. Sad that doesn’t always work out for them.”

He thanked me, rubbed Gordy’s head and walked away only to turn around and head back. Gordon responded with an earnest shimmy of his tiny tail-nub.

With a shyness in his eyes, he said he hated to ask but he was homeless and hungry and wondered if I had some change to spare. Without thinking twice I handed him the only cash I had with me, a twenty.

I tend to be very wary of panhandlers having seen more than one head off for a fix. He could have been intending to do the same thing but I realized in that moment it wasn’t my place to judge. I could do a nice thing because it was nice and leave it at that. I could remember the lessons from dogs… and not think twice about being nice.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ~ John Grogan

Heading back to the car I heard someone call, “Hey, Gordon’s mom!” I looked across the street and it was the same guy with a big bag full of sandwiches from a local shop down the street.

He beamed at me and said, “thanks for understanding.” Sometimes the lessons from dogs are the ones that teach us how to be better humans. 

Essential Oil Sage Tea for a Sore Throat

Tis’ the season for coughs, colds and sore throats (again.) To honor this most meh of seasonal occurrences I’ve revived this post written at some point in a fevered state last year. The upside is that I’ll now be prepared for the impending germs with an essential oil sore throat tea to stave off my demise.

Sage and Citrus Essential Oils Tea For Sore Throats

I’ve come to the conclusion that I live in a 2,800 square foot petri dish. Oh, it’s not so bad in the summer or even in spring, but come winter germs swarm the place like the biblical plague. At some point sucking on zinc lozenges, rubbing oneself with camphor goop, and crossing of fingers starts to lose its effectiveness. So, now what? Essential oil tea!

Thanks to my pal Barb – brilliant blogger, awesome travel companion, and a ringer for any scavenger hunt- I’ve started to explore the world of essential oils.   Oh, what a world!

There are people out there who freely espouse their views on the ability of essential oils to treat everything from a bug bite to a mangy cat. (cue: put Windex on it) I pretty much just thought of them as a great way to make it smell like I’d just cleaned house. A diffuser is a nice addition to that homey feel of home. Turns out, I was wrong. 

Yep, I just publicly admitted to being incorrect. Take a screenshot NOW!

Somewhere in all of this, my Italian mother-in-law gets some credit as well. She’s always “prescribing” one herb or another. Ah, but she never figured out sage could help with a sore throat. One point for me!

Putting on my Professor Sprout hat here for a little lesson in herbology. Sage or (Salvia officinalis) has antibacterial qualities. For centuries it’s been used as both an astringent, and anti-inflammatory. When you’ve got a sore throat you’re likely dealing with inflammation, maybe even a bit of bacteria. Salvia officinalis to the rescue with an herbaceous, fragrant, easy to make tea! 

Sage & Citrus Essential Oil Tea (For Sore Throats)
Serves 1
Essentials Oils make this DIY tea a perfect salve for a sore throat.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
2 min
Ingredients
  1. Sage - 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped. 1 teaspoon dry
  2. Citrus Essential Oil - 2-3 drops
  3. Honey 1 teaspoon
  4. Water
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a boil. Steep sage in water for 2-3 minutes. Add honey and oil(s). To keep the full, healthful effects of the oils, you don't want to over-heat it.
Notes
  1. Honey is essential as it helps coat the throat. If you can't have honey, replace it with agava nectar. You may also add 1 to 2 drops of sage oil if so desired for a stronger tea. Don't want to drink the tea? Allow it to cool and use as a gargle.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom https://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/
 

Note: Most natralpaths and traditional doctors warn that sage tea should not be used by expectant mothers or those breastfeeding.

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