Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Poem

Caroling the Holy nights
with Rejoicing and Inspiration
we Sing of Thistle and white,
going to Mass At midnight,
Seeking eternal light.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Out of the Box Holiday Gifts: 5 Tips for Romance

The holidays are a time of love and romance. People take time to be with their loved ones and plan special activities designed to bring them closer together. For couples, the holidays can provide special opportunities for intimacy and growth in the relationship. One way to make your holiday season particularly special is by giving more than a materialistic gift. Instead of using a material item to demonstrate your love, why not try also giving an out of the box holiday gift? When you give an out of the box gift, no cardboard box or wrapping paper is used. Rather, it is a gift of your time doing something for and with your loved one. Here are some ideas to get you started thinking about that special gift you will give.
1. Make a lunch or dinner date. For couples still dating, this is done all the time. But for those of us who have been married for many years or decades even, a simple but special dinner date for just the two of you can help reconnect and recalibrate your relationship. Devote enough time to it and make it unique and memorable.
2. Take a day trip and spend enough time alone together to talk about your dreams and your life together. Go somewhere new and different.
3. Start an exercise program together with your partner. One good program to strengthen your relationship while strengthening your body is partner yoga. This is a gentle yet powerful way to make a positive life change together.
4. Find out what your partner's favorite novel is, and read it from cover to cover. Take notes if necessary to ensure you understand the deeper meanings contained in the book. Then surprise your partner by sitting down with them and discussing the book together. This shows your partner that you really want to understand them at a deep level, and that you care about things they find important.
5. Participate in a charitable event together. Decide together on what you'd like to do. Perhaps it involves giving money to your church, or helping out at the food bank. Make it a joint project that you both care about.
Are activities, done together, actual gifts? They can be, especially when you design the activity to be special and unique. Time is our most valuable asset, and giving it freely is a great demonstration of your love. We all know that love is not something that you can buy in a store and put in a box. Although sometimes we express love with things such as a necklace or necktie, making the time and the effort to include an out of the box holiday gift can make the season extra special and meaningful. These gifts from the heart can help bring more love into the lives of both old and young couples.
Published by Tom Heston MD 12/7/2011
Tom Heston MD is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who practices clinical medicine in the Pacific Northwest. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Out of the Box Holiday Gifts: 5 Tips for the Brain

Sometimes the best gifts don't come in a box when it comes to helping a person improve their brain. Frequently, the best thing we can give is a brain exercise or workout. Do you have a friend or a relative that could use a good workout? Here are some out of the box gifts for them.
1. Give them an electronic puzzle that challenges their mathematical reasoning and numeracy. Sudoku games are frequently free to download to your computer or other digital device. If the person you are giving this gift to isn't that familiar with the technology, offer to download the Sudoku program onto their reader (computer or hand held).
2. Introduce them to a new card game. Does your friend know how to play bridge? Do they know the solitaire game Klondike? Learn how to play these games ahead of time, then sit down with your gift recipient and teach the game to them. Learning anything new and productive can be helpful to the brain.
3. Design a new menu for the home kitchen. Are there foods that you eat over and over again? Perhaps it is time to shake things up. Design a menu specifically to improve brain function. Typically, for most people this will involve more fiber and less sugar in their diet. But feel free to customize things as you see fit. There are a wide range of healthy diets. Adopt one that your family will enjoy and have fun with.
4. Sometimes the best thing you can give to help someone's brain is the gift of a good book. There are lots of free electronic books available. A good topic would be something outside of the person's comfort zone. Be sure that you have read the book. Then, give them the electronic version, and discuss the book together a few weeks later. Really get into the deepest meanings in the book. Find that gem of great wisdom, then discuss how you both can apply it to modern society.
5. Learn several jokes by memory, then tell your gift recipient all of them in a row, building up (hopefully) to a big and hearty laugh session. Then do it again a week later. Repeat frequently.
These out of the box gifts can be the perfect thing for holiday gift exchanges whether it be with family, with friends, or with your coworkers. These gifts all do not involve material items, but rather are gifts of pure thought and love. 
Published by Tom Heston MD
Tom Heston MD is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who practices clinical medicine in the Pacific Northwest.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Out of the Box Holiday Gifts: 5 Tips for the Health Nut

We all know that gift exchanges, while meaning well and having good intentions, sometimes don't get the results that everyone was hoping for. We all want to stay healthy, and so why not give the gift of good health to our family and friends? Certainly, good health doesn't come in a box, but we can often improve a person's heath dramatically by giving them a thoughtful, out of the box health gift. Here are some ideas to get you started designing all of the very unique and special gifts you will want to give.

1. Sign up your friend for a membership at the gym where you already have a membership. Or, if you don't yet have a membership, sign up the both of you. The gift in part is the gym membership, but the real gift only comes when you use it. So use it together. You both will get the physical health benefits, while building up a positive relationship at the same time.
2. What's better than vegan eating? At least, it is worth checking into. Take your gift recipient out to the best vegan cafe that you can find, or go to a regular place but make sure you both order vegan food. As you both are eating lunch, you can share with each other some health tips that you've learned over the years.
3. Go on several energizing and vigorous walks together with your friend with whom you want to give this gift. Talk about the joy of life and your fellowship with one another. Drink some healthy water on the way. Better yet, make this gift a gift of the month club.
4. Do some yoga exercises together, such as breathing exercises . These can be done just about anywhere, anytime. They involve meditation and can be very relaxing.
5. Play a game of chess together. You can find a free digital version for just about every device. Download it, figure out how the software works, then play a game with your gift recipient. Working and exercising your brain most certainly will improve your friend's health.
Out of the box gifts not only give personal health from one friend to another, they also can help improve everyone's environment by maximizing our material free exchange of gifts. Our trash cans won't fill up as fast and we will be less wasteful as we seek to rediscover the real meaning of our friendships, our community, our world, and beyond.
Give the Gift of Walking Together this Christmas

Published by Tom Heston MD on 12/6/2011
Tom Heston MD is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who practices clinical medicine in the Pacific Northwest. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Some are More Equal than Others

"And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required."  Luke 12:48

As a young doctor, I felt it was time to speak out at a public forum on keeping our local hospital strong. So what did I do? I decided to quote from George Orwell's book, Animal Farm.

Although this was a serious forum, that addressed important issues, bringing up a quote from Orwell was quite pleasing to me, probably because Orwell's book on animals was being played right in front of me, by people.

The crux of the argument was this: should some doctors receive extra taxpayer money from our local hospital district, while other doctors in private practice get nothing? Although the long-term outcome of this issue resulted in the doctors who relied on subsidies all leaving town and those in private practice like myself staying, the issue is much larger than one town hall meeting. It's about a philosophy of living. Are some more equal than others? Or are we all equal?

As a child, I was raised in a relatively strict Catholic household. For example, my first piano teacher was a nun, and she held a ruler in her hand and struck me whenever I played a wrong note. We went to church every Sunday, said our prayers at every meal, and were taught to read the Bible. While these routines were important, the messages behind the religion were what counted, namely:
  • The strong must help the weak.
  • The healthy must help the sick.
  • The adults must protect the children.
  • The rich must help the poor.

All of us have been given something of value that others lack, and in my childhood I was raised to always believe that God had given me "much" and that was the truth. Therefore, basic morality demanded that I serve others and give back "much." This was why that nun hit my fingers with a ruler--- she knew that I was given the gift of musical talent, and damn it, I better cultivate that gift or else.

Which brings us back to the city forum, where some doctors where claiming that they deserved a special subsidy, but the other doctors in town did not. Their reasons were specious at best, but it made me think of two things. First, shouldn't the strong help the weak? And secondly, shouldn't all of the doctors be treated equally? How could I make this point in a way that wasn't preachy, that treated people with respect? Thankfully, George Orwell saved the day.

In Animal Farm, the pigs (think corrupt politicians) initially promoted the idea that "All animals are equal." As the story developed, the pigs eventually wanted more power. They wanted to live in the house, they wanted better food, they wanted more. But they were constrained by their initial saying that all animals are equal. So what did they do?

By taking small, almost imperceptible steps, they gradually changed the saying to "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." This is what was happening right in front of my eyes. Those who were given much, were focused on getting more. Those that were in positions of power were saying that they were more equal than others.

What did I do? I spoke up and said in so many words that we should not be like the pigs in Animal Farm.  We should consider everyone in our community as equals, and make it our public morality to help the weak, the poor, and the disadvantaged. Although my argument did not carry the day right then, ultimately all of those who were asking for special privileges left town looking for greener pastures, and those of us keeping our heads down and focusing on our work stayed.

I'd like to think that through our actions, our community treated one another as equals, and that in some way, all of us had strengths we could share with others. We rejected the pig philosophy that some are more equal than others.

Looking back, here's what I learned.
  • Reading the classics, like Animal Farm, can have a lasting and important impact on our lives. Classic books are classic for a good reason.
  • Moral principles may be challenged in the short run, but they will prevail in the long run.
  • Quoting from classical literature (including the Bible) can help focus our thoughts, and see things more clearly and more deeply.
  • Mom and Dad were right.
Here's a partial list of some of my favorite fictional works of literature I've read over the years. What are yours?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Let it Rain

So your past
is turned upside down
you're the last one in line,
the last that is found.

And the time
it doesn't change a thing
because you are the one
who's always sitting alone.

But let it rain
on the outside.
Leave your pain-
won't you leave it behind.
Listen honey-
Love can hide but it ain't that hard to find.

Collect your thoughts
Set yourself to rights.
Try to undo your wrongs.
Try to retell your lies.

Make a change.
Don't let it pass you by.
Stand up tall,
don't get beaten down.

Just let it rain
on the outside.
Leave your pain-
won't you leave it behind.
And maybe someday-
you will find the love you've waited for.

Turn your eyes.
You've been there right all along
searching, waiting, around.
Let it hold you tight,
then let go, you know never
when to be found.

Just let it rain.
Just rain.

Love can hide
but it isn't that hard to find.

Love can hide
but it isn't that hard to find,
oh, don't let it go.

Music: Heston
Lyrics: Grainger / Heston

You can listen to this song on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Power of Snow: a Haiku

The coughs and the colds

and all the runny noses

cured by winter's snow.