Sunday, July 17, 2016

Emotional Eating - Distract and Conquer!

Emotional eating! Why do we do it? Who knows? There are tons of books and articles with professional advice on the issue, but everything they say depends on our power to make rational decisions. Unfortunately, when the emotions take over they pretty much tell the brain to "shut up and stay out of the way!" So much for rational decisions.

I realized recently that I am, indeed, an emotional eater. I guess I've always known it, but I finally came to the analytical conclusion that it is true after consuming the following:

  • One fairly large dark chocolate salted caramel (all natural ingredients)
  • A glass and a half of red wine
  • A handful of cashews
  • Roughly two ounces of crunchy potato chips (fried in olive oil, naturally)
  • A half cup or so of dark chocolate fake ice cream made from cashew milk (there seems to be a dark chocolate theme going on here)
  • Another handful of cashews
  • A handful of dark chocolate chunks (did I mention they were organic?)

That was my dinner...accompanied by five or six episodes of "Last Man Standing" reruns on Netflix.

What would drive a normally sane person to such behavior?


When we get emotional - sad, angry, frustrated, aggravated, depressed - the emotions take over and the mind takes a "time out." I'm not really sure why that happens, but it does. And what emotions drive us to do is...well, anything comforting. Sometimes it's shopping, sometimes it's vengeance, and sometimes it's eating things that taste good.

The strange thing is that even though the mind takes a "time out" from control, it still  knows what's going on, and while our emotions might control, our rational mind permits. Nothing gets put into the mouth that the brain does not think about and approve. When we fall off the wagon, or in some cases jump off, we give ourselves permission to eat what we know in our rational mind is bad for us. Here was my internal dialog, more or less...

  • "This seems like a good time to eat that salted caramel in the drawer." One fairly large dark chocolate salted caramel (all natural ingredients)
  • "I should cook something for dinner. [open fridge door, stare for a minute, close fridge] I think I'll have a glass of wine." A glass  of red wine
  • "I'm hungry. What looks like real food?" A handful of cashews
  • "Still hungry, but probably shouldn't eat sugar. I know! I'll have some potato chips." Roughly two ounces of crunchy potato chips (fried in olive oil...naturally)
  • "May as well just finish off this bottle of wine...there's just a half glass left. A half a glass won't hurt." 
  • "Too bad I didn't buy any real ice cream. I guess I'll have some of Mark's. Cashew milk isn't the same, but it has chocolate in it." (Not even bothering to try to rationalize by this time.) A half cup or so of dark chocolate fake ice cream made from cashew milk (there seems to be a dark chocolate theme going on here)
  • [Still not satisfied...looking in pantry for ideas] Another handful of cashews
  • "Okay, I guess I'm not really hungry any more, but now I need something sweet. Again. Dessert!" A handful of dark chocolate chunks (did I mention they were organic?)

Don't misunderstand. Emotions can be a useful ally, as long as they're not allowed to run the show. As a leader, they are notoriously volatile, unreliable, and unfaithful. They are, in a word, liars most of the time.

There are, of course, healthy emotions, but most of the time, our emotions work against our best interests...misplaced fear, anger, jealousy, envy, self-pity, depression, and so on.

Emotions, for the most part, are not our friends.

So how do we fight the battle of Emotions vs. Brain? And, yes, it is a battle. You RUN!

All the good advice in the world about how to make good decisions in the midst of emotional assault will only help you if you can figure out how to fight the battle. And you can't fight it. Not head-on, anyway.

In a head-on battle, emotions will ALWAYS win. You know that's true - you've had the same kind of conversations with yourself that I just related. Probably many. The brain turns to mush and does whatever the emotions tell it to do...every single time.

The only way to get the best of them is distraction. Emotions only have power over you when you focus on them. When you think about all the things that are bothering you, the problems seem to grow and multiply, out of proportion, until the only thing on your mind all the time is your problem, carefully developed and magnified from that proverbial molehill into a mountain by your faithless emotions.

By turning our focus away from the problem - doing something for another person, taking a walk and appreciating nature, calling up a friend and chatting (about them, not you and your problem), starting that project you've been thinking about doing, and so on - by refusing to give our emotions the attention they demand, by treating them like the spoiled child they resemble, by sending them to their room and ignoring them, we give ourselves the time we need to shrink the problem back to it's appropriate size, unencumbered by emotional baggage, where it can be dealt with by the rational mind in a rational way.

...So today I distracted my emotions by making chocolate chip cookies. Of course I used all natural ingredients-- einkorn flour, pure chocolate chips and organic brown sugar. I only made a half batch (see how responsible I'm being?) And, boy are they good!

And that thing I was annoyed about? Still there, but I'm feeling so much better now, and I'll figure out how to dealt with it another day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Dupe (transitive verb)
trick someone; to persuade or induce somebody to do something by trickery or deception

How many things – products, electronics, drugs…things – do we own that we can probably live without? What things to we use, take, eat that we could eliminate and be healthier for the effort?

Every time we turn on the television or the radio, we are inundated with advertisements. Same with the computer. Companies exist to sell stuff – and they want to sell it to as many people as possible, especially YOU.

There are cleaning products especially designed for the face, for the hair, for the body, for teeth, for glass products, wood products, the car, the floors, the dog, leather, vinyl, jewelry, our sturdy clothes, our delicate clothes, the baby, the carpet, the vegetables, the drain, the bathtub, the toilet.

There are products that promise to get rid of wrinkles, help us lose weight, build our muscles or teach us a new language in only ten minutes a day, boost memory, or heal toenail fungus.

Most of them don’t perform as promised.

And then there are the drug companies, pushing their wares on television and radio with happy, soft spoken people, all the while listing off a litany of dreadful side effects, many of which are worse than the ailment their product is claiming to relieve. “Ask your doctor if Drug ABC is right for you.”

We are being duped!

I just purchased a product called “Everyone Soap” – 3 in 1 for hair, body, and bath (as in bubble bath), made from organic plant extracts. I asked myself, “Why not?” Why did I ever think I needed three different soaps to clean my body? Duped, that’s why. Now I have one bottle in my shower caddy instead of three.

Imagine the money you can save by not caving into the marketing hype. Do you think it’s possible that one cleaning solution would work as well for walls and floors and toilets and sinks? What about clothes? (How did our ancestors manage?)

Just last month I discovered how to stop underarm odor with baking soda! Seriously, did you know that such a universal problem had such a simple solution? And one that costs pennies?

I’m really grateful to the Primal Pit Paste people for making an organic deodorant, because a couple years ago when I made the decision to stop using the standard mix of toxic products available on the market, their product was the best organic alternative I could find for odor stopping power. It really works! But the other day when I looked at their active ingredient, I found that it is, in fact, baking soda. So, thank you, Pit Paste…but if that’s all there is to it, why would I not want to just make my own?

And so I did. My version is in powder form, because it’s simpler to make, but it is every bit as effective as the store-bought alternative. Here is the recipe:
·         1 part aluminum-free baking soda
·         2 parts corn starch or arrowroot powder (full-strength soda will irritate the skin, so always dilute with a neutral powder)
·         1/8 part Epsom salts (magnesium also has odor-fighting)
·         A few drops of your favorite essential oil
·         Sift together, work in the essential oil droplets with your fingers, and put into a shaker bottle (an empty spice jar works great).

It takes five minutes to make, and lasts a couple months unless you’re sharing it with someone. You actually CAN share it with someone, because the deodorant is being shaken out of the container onto one’s hand for application to the armpit – not applied directly to the body. (Caviat: It doesn’t stop perspiration, but then sweating is an important bodily function and perhaps shouldn’t be stopped anyway.)

Americans are being duped on a daily basis into believing they need things they don’t need. Of course companies have the Constitutional free-speech right to try to get you to buy their stuff. But there are two things that bother me.
1.    Most of the time the advertising claims are just plain false. Sometimes the deception is easy to see, but oftentimes it isn’t. How many processed food products can you think of that claim to be “healthy” or “all natural?” The very fact that they come in a cardboard box is enough to negate that claim.
2.    More often than we realize, the product is loaded with harmful ingredients such as toxic chemicals or hidden allergens.

The language of marketing is designed to deceive. If they told you the truth about their products, you would never buy them. And don’t depend on the government to keep businesses honest. Regulations give marketers plenty of leeway to make their false claims. As long as there are Washington lobbyists, laws will always tilt in favor of those who pay the most. (Hint:  It isn’t you and me.)

At the end of last year I began the project, once again, of simplifying my home and, in many ways, my life. It’s been an ongoing goal of mine for many years, and one in which I’ve had little success until recently. What changed?

I ran across a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Being the book junkie that I am, I thought, what the heck – I’ll check it out. I didn’t really expect to read anything new or different from all the other organizing books I’ve ever read. But I was surprised by a whole new way of thinking. The author’s methods were based not on how to organize what you have, but on learning how to know what to have and what to get rid of. I discovered that the clutter in my home was caused by junk I didn’t need. Who knew?

By the time I was done with the “tidying” project, I had learned something else along the way – how to think a little more critically when shopping.

“Do I really need this?”
“Are the claims on this product believable?”
“Can I accomplish the same thing with something I already have?”
“Will it simplify my life or just clutter it up?”
“Will it spark joy?”

These are some of the questions I now ask myself before I add another thing to my collection of things-- after reading labels of course. No doubt I’m still going to be duped from time to time. I am human, after all, and ever on the lookout for ways to make my life better, or easier, or more interesting.

But I’m onto them now. I’m wising up. I’m reading the fine print and between the lines. I will no longer be easily duped.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Adventures in Acupuncture

From the time I can remember, I have been terrified of needles.



My dad loves to tell the story of how I bent the needle while being held down by him and four nurses as they tried to give me a shot…after being brought into emergency in a pneumonia induced state of lethargy. Anyway, you get the picture. Needles and I don’t get along.

On a previous cruise, my dearly beloved husband, having injured his back between going in to use the men’s room at the cruise terminal and coming out (I still can’t really explain how THAT happened), decided to make use of the acupuncture services on board the ship. Three days and four hundred dollars later, he was a new man, once again capable of trudging around the ship decks to get food, and getting himself back and forth to the tour buses to discover the beautiful Caribbean islands like a real tourist.

“You should try it,” he suggested when I began limping and straining on the ship’s staircases during our recent Minnesota winter getaway cruise to the equatorial warmth of the Caribbean. “We’ll see how I feel once I’m not sitting at a desk all day every day,” I replied.

We walked, we climbed up stairs, we climbed down stairs, we walked some more. I get more exercise on vacation than I ever do in my regular life. Day one: sore hip. “You should try acupuncture,” he says. “We’ll see how I feel,” I replied. “It’s just been one day.”

Day two: more walking, more climbing, no change. “So, what about that acupuncture,” I ask? “Do you feel it?”

“No, you don’t feel it,” he tells me. (“Liar,” I’m thinking.)

So I make the appointment. Mark, when he had his acupuncture, got a Chinese specialist straight from China who had been practicing since they built the Great Wall. I get a blond woman from Vermont with a whopping four years of experience who’s done “thousands of treatments” in her long illustrious career. My confidence is waning, but I make the appointment anyway.

After filling out a questionnaire and pointing out the best I can where it hurts, she proceeds to turn me into a pin cushion—twenty needles in my feet, hands, and calves, plus one between the eyes for good measure – essentially everywhere except where it hurts. This is Chinese medicine, so what do I know? She’s the expert. My chi is plugged up she explains.  I don’t get it, but she assures me it will help. Next day I seem to be feeling slightly better, which I relay to the “doc.” She repeats the treatment from the day before. Third day I confess that I’m not really feeling better after all, so this time she puts the needles in my lower back, hip, and down my left leg, and reminds me that acupuncture takes time.

That much I have figured out. And at $100+ per treatment, my body is going to have to figure out how to heal without the help of acupuncture.

Now to answer that question you’re probably wondering about if you never had acupuncture…do you feel it?


And yes.

I did not feel most of the needles. Some of them I felt very lightly, but not in any way that one would associate with pain. However, there were two or three pricks over my three sessions that stung like the dickens, but even those calmed down after a minute or two and I didn’t feel them again.

Trying acupuncture was a bold adventure for me, a facing of one of my most ingrained fears, and I’m glad I did. But I am not one to throw good money after bad, so if three sessions don’t bring me relief, the experiment is over. And until acupuncture services become as affordable as chiropractic care, they will never be my first course of action.

Now that I’m home, I will manage my hip pain the same way I have in the past:  see my chiropractor, get a massage or two, return to yoga practice once or twice a week, and – probably the most effective action of them all – eliminate the wheat products from my diet. I’ve found that wheat (or gluten, more likely) seems to aggravate joint and muscle pain in my body, and while I was vacationing, I was quite bad with my indulgences.  So returning to a mostly Paleo diet for a while will probably help the healing process.

Acupuncture is probably not for everyone, and possibly not even for every ailment. Would I recommend it? I have an acquaintance who swears it is the only treatment that freed her of her chronic back pain. It certainly helped my husband when he needed it. So, yes, give it a whirl. I may yet consider it in the future for other types of pain. The only side effects are possible bruising and punctured lungs. (Yes, Ms. Vermont actually told me when I was signing the waiver that, if inserted incorrectly into the chest, an acupuncture needle could puncture a lung.) So, for best results, make sure you see a licensed, qualified, and well-established practitioner who knows what he or she is doing.

I wish you success!

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mastering Mayonnaise

1.  Find a recipe you like.
2.  Acquire a hand mixer with a whisk attachment.
3.  Use said electric whisker to make mayonnaise.

It’s that simple. Who knew?

Now, you can either read the rest of my blog, or go make some mayonnaise.

This is my story...

Some time ago, I decided I would try to make some homemade mayonnaise because I like mayonnaise and I don’t like soybean or canola oil. I dare you to find a single brand of mayonnaise made without vegetable oil. Or bean oil. Or grain oil (corn). I could go into a long tirade about the evils of polyunsaturated fatty acid and the health benefits of saturated and monounsaturated fats, but I’ve already done that in other posts, so I won’t repeat it hear. In any case, there is an abundance of information on the internet about this topic, so I won’t belabor it. Suffice it to say, polyunsaturated vegetable oils manufactured by industrial processes are the most harmful of foods and should be avoided as much as humanly possible (regardless of what the government says).

You’re probably thinking, “Wait! What are you talking about? I’ve seen several brands of mayonnaise out there made with olive oil.” And you would be right. Sort of. In an effort to draw in consumers who understand the health benefits of olive oil, many of the mayo makers are indeed beginning to market mayonnaise “made with olive oil.” Good news, right? No.  Read the labels. Yes, they contain olive oil, but the main ingredient in every case is vegetable oil. After all, olive oil is expensive. And besides, the government has declared that dangerous, unstable polyunsaturated fats are the healthiest oils there are ... which no doubt is the result of extreme pressure from the food lobbyists representing the purveyors of those oils.

So I decided, to heck with store-bought mayonnaise! I will make my own.

Inspired by a Facebook post with a YouTube video of a guy making perfect mayonnaise “every time” with an immersion blender, I gathered all my ingredients and proceeded to fail at making mayonnaise with my immersion blender. Not once, but three times. It was truly disappointing, not to mention I used up every last drop of oil in my pantry in the process.

A month or two later, after the painful memory of my first failed attempts had faded somewhat, I decided to try again, only this time using a standard blender. Again, the result was a pint of runny yellow goo. By now, I was convinced that mayonnaise was the domain of culinary scientists like Chef Roberts and Alton Brown, and not for the likes of me.

But early last year, I picked up Michelle Tam’s new cookbook, NOM NOM PALEO, FOOD FOR HUMANS. Like a message from God saying, “Don’t give up – try it one more time!” I found within those pages a recipe for mayonnaise, complete with detailed instructions – and pictures.  

So, being the tenacious type, I gave it another whirl (sorry for the pun). This time, I used a regular old hand mixer with a whisk attachment, followed the instructions, and to my delight, I ended up with a pint of beautiful light yellow mayonnaise to rival the best store-bought jar you can find. I was thrilled.

Since that effort, I have never had a failure. Not one. I’ve made it about a dozen times or so, with beautiful results every time.

You can find any number of recipes for mayonnaise in cookbooks or on the web, or you can buy Michelle's cookbook and use hers. But I do have a few comments and suggestions drawn from my own experience:

1.  I use light olive oil. It will give you all the health benefits of monounsaturated fatty acids without the heavy taste of extra virgin oil. Avocado oil is another very healthy oil, but the oil you choose will affect the taste of the final product, so keep that in mind. Whatever you do, DON'T use vegetable oil - you may as well save yourself the trouble and buy Kraft.
2.  Use very fresh eggs from pastured chickens if you can find them. The mayo will only last as long as the egg(s) it’s made with.
3.  The egg yolk(s) should be room temperature for best results.
4.  You probably COULD use a hand whisk, but I’ve never done it and I don’t recommend it unless you’re trying to build arm muscle and have very good coordination for the necessary whipping and pouring. Just holding the mixer for the duration is a work-out for me.
5.  Don’t rush the oil flow. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to make a one-pint jar of mayo. Time requirement (to incorporate all the oil) will vary based on how much you make.

Americans have been buying manufactured food for so long we’ve forgotten how simple it is to make our own. This week I put together from scratch one of the best ranch salad dressings I’ve ever eaten – again totally absent of vegetable oils or added sugars. I’ll post about that later on.

My point is, we don’t have to be slaves to what the big food makers give us. In a world where our food is routinely filled with questionable and sometimes downright toxic ingredients, there is another option. And it’s not that hard. Create your own. Cooking from scratch will ensure that you know what’s in your food – no labels to decipher, no hidden allergens or GMOs to worry about.

Up for a challenge??

Master your own mayonnaise. You’ll be doing your body good.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Government “Recommendations”

The government, particularly the U.S. Federal Government, is fond of providing Americans with its recommendations for our health and well-being.

The question we should be asking ourselves is this:  Is the government qualified to make recommendations about our health - or anything else, for that matter?

In light of the fact that scientific and nutritional research is continually revealing new information, and subsequently re-evaluating what’s good or bad for us on a very frequent basis, how can a bunch of politicians possible know what to tell the American public?

An example of this is an article that came out just this week in The Telegraph, a British publication, about a study concluding that red wine, previously thought to be healthful in moderation, is now bad for you in any amount. Why? Because it contains alcohol, which is toxic to the liver. This fact has been known for pretty much ever. But the health implications are being re-examined, probably not for the last time.

The biggest question that plagues most of us is, why does health information keep changing?

The problem with studies in human nutrition is that the human body is intricately complex, and separating out the effects of even one food, not to mention one element of a food, is difficult if not impossible to do. Such a study would have to be done in a completely controlled, institutional environment where “cheating” would be impossible. Like a prison. No one ever “cheats” in there, right?

Nevertheless, on Thursday of this past week, the USDA came out with its new updated Dietary Guidelines, as reported by NBC News (which, by the way, are solid until 2020). These guidelines were finally released “after a year of arguments, lobbying and directives from Congress,” the article stated. It reported that the guidelines were an admitted compromise – no surprise there. The government has to keep everybody happy, you know - especially the ones who line their pockets.
“HHS and USDA walked a fine line in issuing the guidelines. They considered advice from nutrition and public health experts, food industry experts, farmers and politicians.”
And we all know how important the opinions of food industry “experts” and politicians are.

Once again, with the release of this new and improved Guideline, the government has shown that it still does not understand nutrition, in spite of the very intellectual and prestigious persons on their Advisory Board. The guidelines reflect more of an effort to not rock the boat than to give the American public trustworthy advice.

Here are a few things that jumped out at me.

Cholesterol – They finally agree that dietary cholesterol has no impact on blood cholesterol (yay!), and yet they still recommend "eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible." Why? Because dietary cholesterol is linked to foods high in saturated fat, which everybody “knows” is bad for you.

Saturated Fat – No study has EVER been done to analyze the effect of organic saturated fat consumption (fats naturally present in meat, eggs, and dairy) in the human body, using the scientific method  – that is, a double-blind, random-selection study that isolates organic saturated fats from toxic trans-fats found in manufactured foods. Every nutritional study on fats lumps all solid fats into one bucket, which shows a glaring lack of understanding of fats in general. Instead, study results rely heavily on what the subjects report in questionnaires, based on what they logged or remember having eaten over a given period. If you've ever tried to keep a diet log, I rest my case.

In fact, the most current research suggests that the big culprit in chronic illness is not saturated fats, but polyunsaturated fats, which are the most unstable (inflammatory) fatty acids of all. You can read more about this in publications such as THE BIG FAT SURPRISE, by Nina Teicholz, and KNOW YOUR FATS, by Mary J. Enig PhD (a well-respected lipid expert). Despite this new revelation, the government Guidelines still recommend that we replace as much of our fat intake as possible with polyunsaturated fats, the oils manufactured from corn, soy, and seeds.

Sugar Consumption – Everybody knows that sugar is bad for us. It makes us fat and it makes us sick (diabetes). If these Dietary Guidelines were honest, they would tell us to cut out added sugar completely. But then there’s the sugar industry to worry about, and the big soft drink manufacturers, and the corn industry that pumps out vats and vats of high-fructose corn syrup from their surplus corn supply (for which they get subsidies from the government). Besides that, just about every single processed food on the market contains added sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. So, the wise government has extended a compromise by recommending that we keep our consumption to 10%. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 200 calories a day we can spend on the processed food of our choice, over and above the sugar naturally present in the two cups of fruit we should eat.

Grain – The 2016 guidelines continue the old assumption that grains are critical to a balanced diet. They tell us we should eat six ounces of whole grains a day, which is equivalent to six slices of bread. Who decided that human beings cannot live healthy lives without grain? There is abundant evidence of cultures around the world that have thrived for hundreds, probably thousands, of years eating a grain-free diet (like the Inuit populations). Current research is finding that humans may actually be healthier if they DON’T eat grains - of any kind. Autoimmune diseases, as well as neurological ailments like Alzheimer’s, are being connected with “leaky-gut syndrome,” a condition caused by the gluten in our modern wheat. You can read more about this in the well-researched books, GRAIN BRAIN, by David Perlmutter MD, and WHEAT BELLY, by William Davis MD (or by searching online).

In a spirit of fairness, the 2016 guidelines are certainly an improvement over those of the past. Still, for the federal government to behave as though it is the prevailing authority on - well, anything for that matter, would be laughable, if it weren’t oft times downright dangerous to our well-being.

Politicians are not experts – they’re just politicians. They should stay out of the business of giving advice.

What should we eat, then?

Do you think Americans can figure it out without the government’s help? I do. We have access to the same information the government uses to makes its recommendations. We just need to access it. The government thinks you are too stupid to know what’s best for you.

THAT should make you down-right annoyed.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Bucket Lists

Along about the fifth or sixth decade of a person’s life, they start thinking about bucket lists – you know, those things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” Many times the list includes places you want to see, things you want to accomplish, and so forth.

For the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve read and what I haven’t read. You’ve probably seen the Facebook posts going around on the topic: “Best books to read in your lifetime – most people have only read six”...there are a few variations. As I reviewed the lists (as of course I had to), I was pleased to discover that I have indeed read more than six - but sadly not very many more. Perhaps a dozen. And the exercise made me realize that I’ve missed out on a wealth of literary richness – a wealth that is fortunately still within my grasp. And so I have decided to create a bucket list of my own - a Reading Bucket List.

As a child, I never cared much for reading. I don't remember ever reading anything of significance that wasn't required for school... until junior high. My eighth grade English teacher was fond of reading aloud to her students for the first fifteen minutes of class and strongly encouraged us to explore the world of reading. Interestingly (and much to the probable chagrin of my parents, had they known), the book she chose to start the year with was Rosemary's Baby. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend that book to anyone, it was intensely interesting to me at the time, and it hooked me once and for all on reading.

Over the course of my high school years, I read a few of the classics:  Of Mice and Men, anything I could get my hands on by Dickens, 1001 Nights, and even a little Shakespeare - Romeo and Juliet (it didn't hurt that the movie by the same name was playing in the theaters at the time).

After my children were born, I read to them and encouraged them to read as they got older. We obtained a large bookcase and filled it with books for every age. We read E.B. White's children's classics and C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, Black Beauty, and many others.

But as the kids grew up and left home and my busy work life took over, my reading passion ground to a halt for many years. When I took up reading again, my focus was on nonfiction and has been that way up until now.

Of course, nonfiction is tremendously important for broadening one’s scope of practical knowledge and developing the skill of critical thinking. But nonfiction is where we go to enrich our imaginations. In nonfiction, we often find hidden philosophical concepts and ideologies that might not match our own but give us an opportunity to see beyond the box we’ve created in our own minds. Nonfiction takes us places we can never go in the real world. It often teaches lessons of moral relevance. It sometimes takes us into darkness and terror and sometimes delights us with comedy or romance or swashbuckling adventure. It entertains using words and our own unique imagination.

Why read when we can watch a movie or TV show based on the book? Two reasons.
  • Reading engages the mind in a way that visual representations never can.
  • Movies can never capture the full scope of a book.

So, what about my bucket list? In order to get a good rounded recommendation for the “best” books to read, I pulled up about eight or nine different lists that I found on the internet and compiled them into one, ranked by how often a title occurred among the lists. What I ended up with was a little more than 175 books. I figure these will keep me busy for the next seven to ten years – maybe more, since I keep adding my own selections along the way (not to mention the nonfiction titles that will push their way into my list on a fairly regular basis). 

Below are the top 15 that I will attempt to read this year. Most of the titles are familiar. Some from the lists I used don’t appear because I have already read them (among them: The Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Harry Potter books, Animal Farm, and others). 

So, what’s on your bucket list? Places to see? Things to do? Do you have one? You may not be riding down the other side of the “hill” just yet, but the longest life is still incredibly short in the big scheme of things. There's never enough time. Start now to do the things that bring joy.

Maybe 2016 is the year to forget the resolutions, put together some buckets and start filling them up.

God bless, and have a very meaningful and happy new year!

P.S. For the morbidly curious, I have published my full list as a supplementary page. 

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