Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson Alzheimer's

Protect Your Brain From Alzheimer’s and Other Dysfunction

I discovered "The Model Health Show" hosted by Shawn Stevenson after I heard him interviewed about his own health journey on another podcast.

Stevenson is knowledgeable and dives deep into the science of common health issues to inform people and encourage them to make health (and sleep) a priority.

Dementia is an issue that's personal to so many of us. My aunt was never formally diagnosed but I experienced the fallout and devastation of her brain dysfunction first-hand. I have no doubt that certain areas of her brain were damaged by plaque, stroke, chemo or something. 

I had never heard about a possible connection between Alzheimer's and insulin resistance. Could Type II diabetes have contributed or caused my aunt's problem?

Dr. Steven Masley makes a convincing case for it in this episode and offers suggestions to minimize, reverse or prevent the condition.

The interview alone is eye-opening and convincing but I'm anxious to read his book, The Better Brain Solution, available today (Jan 2, 2018). 

I'll let you know what I think of the book.

I have a few go-to podcasts that I love. I gravitate toward the topics of business, creativity, productivity, human behavior, brain stuff, personal development, technology, self-care and writing. If you have any suggestions for episodes or shows that fit those categories or something else interesting , I'd love to hear about them.

Twymans in DC circa 1974

New Year Lots of Ideas

I'm turning 50 in 2018. It feels like I should make this year special. 

I hope to celebrate my birthday by recreating this photo taken in 1974 with my mom and brothers.

I love the stair-steppiness of the five of us. Also, how we all have that squinty look on our face (except Hugh who made himself a pair of sunglasses with his fingers). 

The photo above was taken by my Aunt Linda whose life and death punctuated 2017 for me and my family.

I'm taking on some new projects in 2018. One, in particular, scares me but I realize that sometimes those are the most rewarding opportunities. 

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A recurring theme in the ones I listen to is pushing the boundaries of comfort in order to grow. Our brains are wired to keep us safe which usually = comfortable.

All I can do is try. I'll probably look like an ass sometimes but what the heck, I'm almost 50! 

Other projects are ones that I started but haven't quite finished. It will feel good to check those off the list.

I plan to choose a word for the year but I usually don't do that on January 1. I'll write about that when I figure it out.

One habit I've been working on is to write every day. Whether on this site, the homeschool law site I maintain, personal projects or just journaling. I try to write 500 words a day but every time I read this post by Srini Rao, I'm inspired to challenge myself to write 1,000 words a day. 

Happy New Year! I hope you're looking forward to doing some interesting + scary things.


Kelauni Cook Going Deep with Aaron Watson

Tech, Crypto, Blockchain with Aaron Watson and Kelauni Cook

Aaron Watson is a podcaster from Pittsburgh so I’m probably biased.

Watson’s interview with Kelauni Cook is upbeat, inspiring, smart and incredibly engaging. Her enthusiasm for tech made me want to learn how to code!

Kelauni skipped from one impressive experience to the next after graduating from college. She realized in hindsight how valuable it was.

Cook was a member of the inaugural cohort for Pittsburgh’s first coding academy. She landed a job as a junior developer at the Washington Post upon completing the program and started Black Tech Nation, dedicated to diversity in tech through training. She’s also an instructor at the bootcamp.

What I loved most about this interview is Kelauni’s unique, non-linear path to coding and her enthusiasm for the future. Specifically how blockchain technology will change everything.

As a sidenote, I was interested in Kelauni’s journey to and through Academy Pittsburgh, the region’s first coding bootcamp. Although it has a rigorous application process, it’s an intensive, tuition-free training model. Graduates pay a percentage of their income for a limited time when they secure a job.

This learn-first, pay-when-your-training-helps-you-land-a-job model is being employed by more start-ups and academies and will disrupt the traditional 4 year, overpriced, college model.

Look for more opportunities like this in areas other than tech.

 

Shawn Stevenson Art of Charm with Jordan Harbinger Hack Your Sleep

Shawn Stevenson on the Art of Charm

Shawn Stephenson has a compelling story that starts with a freak injury while sprinting in high school (likely caused by poor nutrition) and culminating in taking charge of his health to repair his spine after years of debilitating pain, a cocktail of pharmaceuticals and massive weight gain. I'll admit that I cringed hearing about how he broke his hip just running since I worry about all the junk food my kids eat now that they're older. 

I am convinced after listening to Stephenson on the Art of Charm that lack of quality sleep is key to so many health problems and addressing the issue (he offers solid strategies in his book "Sleep Smarter")* would help people lose weight, cure chronic pain and live better overall.

It's not easy to make sleep a priority which is surprising because it feels so great. 

Sleep Smarter Shawn Stephenson

Not only did I buy the book but have recommended it to friends since it covers a variety of issues that arise from a lack of sleep.

Stephenson is the host of his own podcast where he dives deep into some of the fascinating information that he touched on in this interview.  I never knew that the lymphatic system is triggered by movement and helps cells eliminate waste and debris. Should have learned that in biology but didn't remember it. Also, sleep helps to decrease the production of stress hormones. 

I've been listening to the Model Health Show, too and will be sharing some of the better episodes here, too. 

Even if you're not interested in buying the book, catch this episode. It's entertaining, informative and Stephenson's story is almost miraculous.

I rate this episode 5 out of 5 stars. The information is supported by Shawn's research, knowledge base and practice. The story is compelling and Jordan conducts a top notch interview.

*This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link from this blog, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I appreciate it!

All Saints Day

All Saints

St. Zita, Bl. Luke the Contrary, St. George, St Ursula (All Saints Day, 2006)

It’s impossible for me to celebrate All Saints Day without a deep sense of gratitude to my aunt Linda whose faith informed my own.

She introduced me to Mary in a way that made her seem motherly, approachable and real rather than holy and separate from us. I’ll always be grateful for that.

My aunt always had books on her shelf about certain favorite saints and the classic “Butler’s Lives of the Saints“. She also sent the kids books and cartoon videos about saints for Christmas and birthdays.

She loved hearing about how the kids celebrated feast days.

The kids were in charge of planning and preparing lunch (sometimes dinner-woot woot) on feast days.

Not gonna lie, the “feasts” looked a lot like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. Popcorn, toast or cheese sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese when they got older (there was a lot of cheese going on). Just about anything they could handle on their own.

Thinking about it, there were probably just a couple of things on the table but back then, it seemed to take hours and looked like a real party on the kitchen table and everyone dug in like it was the last supper (pun intended). They used the good dishes because they were special occassions.

To all the Saints whose intercession I implored over the years….Thank you! For any new Saints in heaven (wink, wink) Pray for us! We love you!

Electronics B&H photo

Why I Buy All High-End Electronics at B&H Photo

We’ve been buying photo equipment and other electronics at B&H Photo and Video since the mid 90s.

Back then they didn’t have an online presence but service was great and shipping was fast.

It’s impressive how well the brick & mortar store adapted to compete online with giants like Amazon, Target, Walmart and the bigger membership store retailers.

I usually buy an extended warranty (2-3 years depending on the item) which has recently paid off-twice on the same item.

We helped Hannah buy her second dSLR two years ago. She decided on the Nikon D610 after some extensive research. It’s a good entry-level professional grade camera that’s reasonably priced. (Relative to other pro models).

She dropped it during a photo shoot. One of the reasons I get the extended warranty (in this case 3 years for about $75) is that it covers damage from drops and spills.

Square Trade emailed a free shipping label, I boxed it up and sent it to their repair center.

It took a couple of weeks which was a bummer, but she got the camera back like new.

A few weeks ago, her shutter froze while she was shooting a Pittsburgh Thunderbirds game. Even though her camera had already been repaired once, the camera was still covered. Woo-hoo!

Pittsburgh Thunderbirds photo via Hannah Phillips Media

Ruh Roh-Camera broke.

I opened another claim. This repair was projected to take a few weeks because they were waiting for a part from the manufacturer.

I learned that when you purchase the Square Trade warranty through B&H, it carries a special 2-5 day guarantee. If they can’t repair your item within 2-5 days, Square Trade will refund the price of the warranty but still honor it until the warranty expires. You have to ask for this benefit, though.

The repair ended up taking less than two weeks after a B&H executive got involved. He explained to me that either Square Trade or B&H will make accommodations on a case by case basis to make sure their customers aren’t stranded without critical equipment while it’s being repaired.

I have opened claims on two other items that I purchased at B&H and got a full refund when they quit working. In both cases, the manufacturer’s warranty had expired so they really paid off.

B&H Photo’s customer service is the best. In the most recent case, I only contacted them to inquire about a rental or a loaner that I intended to pay for when Square Trade customer service was telling me the repair would take weeks. The B&H rep was appalled that the repair was taking so long and insisted on looking into the matter for me. He suggested that I email the customer service/sales executive to explain my situation. The exec ended up being a total badass but also professional. After he got involved, the estimated repair time turned from a couple of weeks to one day.

Here’s the lesson: B & H has your back. Purchase the Square Trade warranty directly from B&H.

How to Become a Straight A Student by Cal Newport

How To Become a Straight-A Student~Review

If you know someone heading off to college in the fall, “How to Become a Straight-A Student” by Cal Newport is a great resource. The sub-title (“The Unconventional Strategies Real College Stuents Use to Score High While Studying Less”) is true.

The book is full of practical strategies that I’ve never heard before and wish I had known when I went to college and law school.

Luke, the one starting college in the fall, is a good student and thrives under the accountability and structure of a schedule and assignments. He’s a little anxious about adjusting to the academics and managing his own time, along with all the other changes that college life brings.

I heard Cal Newport on a podcast discussing his new book “Deep Work“. He also briefly mentioned his first book (Straight A Student) which is a practical playbook dissecting and describing how top college students organize their time and study effectively without stressing out.

He mentioned one effective study technique as an example and I knew the book would help Luke.

Newport’s simple time management system, which he describes in the first chapter, is worth the price of the book.

If you implement it correctly, the simple system should only take 5-10 minutes a day of planning.

I’ll summarize it here but Newport gives a few clear examples to illustrate how effective it can be to minimize anxiety.

It requires a calendar (digital or physical) to record important dates and events. You’ll also need a piece of paper or something portable to jot the daily tasks on and things that come up during the day.

The calendar serves as the master schedule which you’ll consult each morning for 5-10 minutes to create your portable “to-do” list.

As the day goes on, you can check off or reschedule the to-dos, you’ll also record any new assignments or important dates on this portable note (sheet of notebook paper works fine). So, when your professor announces the date of a quiz at the end of class, if you jot it down on your sheet, you won’t risk forgetting if you don’t get back to your room until later in the day. It’s an easy way to make sure important things aren’t overlooked and you don’t have to rely on your memory.

A couple of thoughts: forming a habit of consulting the master calendar, taking a few minutes each morning at the beginning of the day and jotting down notes as the day goes on might be the hardest part of this system. Definitely, its success relies on forming a few new habits. Second, as you continue, you’ll get better at judging what you can accomplish in a day. Again, this will come with practice.

I’m anxious for Luke to try this time management system on his busy but not stressful summer schedule a few weeks before school starts so he understands the basics and gets into the habit.

The book also offers anti-procrastination strategies, time-saving study tactics, note-taking tips and a lot of other practical information that’s realistic and executable.

I’m confident that if Luke implements even a few of the strategies, it will minimize his anxiety and help him navigate a more demanding academic schedule.

If it’s appropriate, I’ll write about the other parts of the book in separate posts.

caregiving and accountability

The Stress of 24/7 Accountability of Caregiving

This isn’t a rant or a complaint, just information to help people understand one of the many challenges of full time caregiving.

My aunt has lived with us for almost three years. That first summer was physically, emotionally and logistically demanding. I was constantly exhausted and stressed.

The hardest thing at the beginning was not knowing what to expect and learning how to navigate changes that I couldn’t predict.

One change was the increased traffic of well-intentioned visitors. Except for my closest family members (brothers and cousins), visitors added to the chaos those first few months. Once I identified it as a stressor, I was able to set some boundaries. Most people respect them and are very understanding but we’ll still get the occassional surprise visitor. Who does that?

If you’re reading this and know someone caring for a loved one, please don’t drop in unexpectedly, it’s rude, inappropriate and disruptive.

I’m lucky that my aunt doesn’t have demanding medical or physical needs.

The hardest thing about being a caregiver now is the constant accountability and having to make detailed arrangement for anything that takes me away from the house. I can’t run to the grocery store if someone isn’t here with her. Weddings, funerals and every family event are tricky to attend because all my back-ups are usually attending those, too.

People don’t realize that every event and activity requires planning and arranging for someone to be with her, prepare her meals, help her in the bathroom, keep her on her schedule, let alone coordinating my own family members. I can’t tell you how often I thought I told my kids about a funeral or an invitation/event and they never heard about it. Blank stare.

It’s a chore to enjoy normal family things. I tend to opt out of movies, get-togethers with friends and family, dinner out or the occassional sporting event because it’s just easier than scrambling to arrange one or more caregivers.

Any solution is temporary. It’s great when people offer to help but it’s always only temporary. My daughters were just getting comfortable taking responsibility for 24 hour care to allow me to be away overnight but my aunt’s physical and mental abilities have declined so quickly that none of us are comfortable with that.

My mom and I will try to share caregiving as long as possible. My aunt will spend a couple of months at each of our homes to give the other a break. It’s much easier than trying to manage her care in a nursing home, for now.

 

Hannah new apartment

Update on Hannah’s Apartment Hunt

Remember when I was comparing the cost of room and board for college to Hannah’s apartment search? I knew Hannah was anxious to find a place and thought it might happen by end of summer.

She signed a lease May 1!

It happened SO FAST, I honestly didn’t know what hit me. But it’s all good.

Neither of us expected Hannah to end up in our home town but the apartment is charming and affordable (relatively speaking) and she has the loveliest, grand-parenty landlords. Her neighbors aren’t scary and she feels safe.

As you can tell by the photos, it exceeds her # 1 priority…..LOTS OF LIGHT! Even when it’s overcast outside or on hot days when she has to close the blinds so she’s not poached in there, that apartment is BRIGHT!

Hannah studio

Although Hannah was more anxious to move out than get her own vehicle, her work takes her all over the region and she was saving for a car. When my mom offered to give her an old one that she was trying to sell, it just moved the whole apartment thing to the front burner.

We gave Hannah a budget to help her buy some basics. She wasn’t expecting it and trust me, it’s a fraction of what we’ll end up spending out of pocket for Luke to attend Cleveland State in the first year, alone. The other thing we’re helping her with is the cell phone. It’s $10/month to keep her on our plan vs. getting her own plan starting at $80/month.

She’ll start paying for her own car insurance once she gets settled and organized. I think we added her beater to our policy (while she still lived here) for about $240/year. Not sure what she’ll pay on her own but we’ll do that in a month or two. I’ve easily spent more than that on deposits and enrollment fees already for Luke.

Otherwise, she is on her own and feels great about it. She’ll pay her own rent, utilities (electric, gas and internet). I haven’t bought groceries or toiletries, supplies or anything. I only mention it because I bumped into one of her classmates from high school who just finished her freshman year at an out-of-state college. The girl’s mom was buying her two carts full of groceries and supplies for an apartment she sub-letted for the summer. Not judging, just comparing.

I think there’s a mindset of dependence and continued parental responsibility when kids are in college that most people (society) just accepts. I’m sure I’ll be guilty of indulging Luke while he’s in school. We already have indulged his pursuit of tennis relative to the resources we’ve spent (time, energy and money) on anyone else.

It will be interesting to see the difference as Hannah pursues her career while Luke pursues a degree. This post doesn’t get into what people might think of her path compared to Luke’s more traditional one. I wonder whether it will even be an issue four years from now.

Kranse SAT prep course

How an Online SAT Prep Course Saved Us $24,000

Some Background Information

Although I don’t share too many personal stories about the kids (unless they’re hilarious and wouldn’t embarrass them), I have been posting about Luke’s college search process.

As with most things at the Phillips household, Luke’s college search was unconventional since he only visited one school, liked it, and accepted an offer to play tennis there. Done…right? Wrong!

Not So Fast, Kid

The offer included an academic scholarship with the condition of raising his SAT score by 40 points. Without the academic award, we weren’t sure we could afford one year, let alone four.

Since Luke didn’t prepare much before the first SAT exam, we thought he could meet this hurdle with some focused preparation.

Luke is a good student. He gets mostly A’s, some B’s and has a solid GPA. He’s fairly disciplined but needs a set structure from an outside source to keep him moving forward and motivated.

I couldn’t provide this type of accountability or specific coaching for the SAT content. The free Khan Academy site doesn’t provide the progressive structure he needed. I appreciate the free resource but it feels scattered and random. Luke only used Khan a few times before his first SAT exam and didn’t find it helpful.

Enter Kranse Institute*

I had read about an online prep course created by a guy who achieved a perfect score on the SAT after studying the test design and refining his approach to the questions. He appeared on Shark Tank and partnered with Mark Cuban. I have to admit, Cuban’s endorsement influenced my confidence in the course.

Here’s a clip from Patel’s Shark Tank Pitch (before the course was rebranded for new SAT format):

 

 

I didn’t need or expect Luke to get a perfect score-just 40 points for $6,000 a year. I wouldn’t normally spend lots of money on something like this (like NEVER) but I justified the expense of The Kranse Institute course for a few reasons:

  1. Luke saved us hundreds of dollars by visiting and applying to only one school.
  2. This investment could translate into $24,000 (over 4 years), a huge return.
  3. Having access to the course gave Luke confidence, peace of mind and a goal (watch videos).
  4. Kranse offers a 7-day money back guarantee if it’s not a good fit.
  5. Kranse also offers a 100% money back guarantee if the student’s score doesn’t improve.

We had nothing to lose.

You Already Know He Got the Award!

Luke had received a financial aid award early in January that included the tennis scholarship and a loan approval (don’t even get me started on loans!). At that point, the college didn’t have his best scores. We weren’t sure his January scores (sent to colleges March 2) would get to the right people in time for a decision for additional money.

We were both nervous when he got this second email from the financial aid office.

Financial Aid Award Kranse SAT prep scholarship

We clicked through to his campus account and found this notice waiting for him!

Academic Award Status Kranse SAT Prep

I can’t even express what a huge relief this is and the margin the award gives our family.

Though, Luke and I were impressed with the Kranse Institute course before this result, we can unequivocally endorse it and recommend it to family and friends (and readers we don’t know) 😉

Here’s what Luke liked about the course.

I asked Luke to describe what he thought was helpful. Here’s what he told me:

  •  The videos were short and to the point. I felt like I could learn exactly what I needed for that section or problem without guessing.
  •  I liked seeing my progress as I finished lessons. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and helped me plan. 
  • It was great having access to the lessons anytime from anywhere.
  • The writing videos helped my writing score and skills more than two years of high school English.
  • It helped me stay focused and motivated.

Here’s What I Liked About the Course

  1. Self-motivating. I didn’t have to hound Luke about studying. Luke knew as soon as we purchased the course that he would watch them. This factor alone, was worth the price of the course to me.
  2. Organized. The entire course is well-organized by SAT subject tests (Essay, Critical Reading, Writing, Math; plus a series of videos with general information about test design, changes, format and scoring). Luke didn’t need the essay portion so he could skip that whole group of videos. If he had trouble with a particular concept after completing a practice section, he could easily navigate to and review a specific video.
  3. Solid content. The strategies and samples are direct, relevant and useful. I didn’t review all the videos but I took some time to look at a lot of them and was impressed by how practical and executable the strategies are.
  4. Price. Private tutoring (online and in-person) can range from $150-$200 or more per hour which is unaffordable for us. Other courses can cost $1200 or more. For $349 (with coupon) and with Kranse’s money-back guarantee, it was the most affordable and practical option for Luke’s situation.

A Special Price for My Readers

The blog where I originally read about the course included a limited coupon code which I used to get a 30% discount. I reached out to Kranse and the support team offered the same discount for my readers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Kranse Institute course including results, an overview, faqs, and the guarantee, here’s the link: Kranse.com .

Use the coupon code “SAVE30NOW” at checkout for 30% off the regular price!

If you decide to try the course, I’d love to know if it helps!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. I was so impressed with the Kranse course and was referring so many friends that the company invited me to become an affiliate. If you purchase the course through my link or apply the special coupon code above, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you (in fact, you get a discount). It’s a win-win-win and helps cover the costs of the site. Thank you.

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