Holistic Health A Nontraditional Alternative

Five Elements Living, Colton, New York.

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LIVE YUM: Sat Chit Ananda Chutney & Prema Pepita Poppers

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Stop Thinking Start Doing

Michelle Graham

Are you someone who thinks about making changes in your life?  Wow, the possibility to change is endless.  What is your 2017 plan for a positive, meaningful year? Is your goal to take college classes, learn how to quilt, get healthy or just become a better, more focused, more driven person. Whatever the dream, the goal, the doing, the planning has to start from within. You have heard the quote or a derivative of it “If you can dream it you can become it.”  Well now is your big chance to be and do all that you can be in 2017. No matter the goal big or small what path will you forge to get there?

                I personally like plans!  I like writing them out, I like keeping lists and then crossing things off my list. Anyone who knows me or who has taken our YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program has heard me say 100 or more times “when you have a plan you have everything.” This holds true not just with getting healthy or making improvements in eating, but with many situations or goals in life. Big LOFTY plans are not necessary; it is the little plans, the attention to small details that make the difference.

                Start at the beginning, be specific and describe your goal accordingly.  If you don’t know where you have been, how can you know where you are going? Think about your goal, perhaps document what you like about it and what brought you to this place of change.  Reflection is the key to progress and making your goal an evolving blueprint is the key. Determine what the goal is, define it and then set some short and long-term goals to coincide with the proposed goal. Now what is your plan to achieve that goal?  Are you going to take some chances to get there and will you go out on a limb to really make it happen? Get uncomfortable and begin to push yourself in a way that perhaps takes you out of your comfort level. This is where true inner growth, awareness and innate change can happen.  Be open to the amazing possibilities that can come and most important be open to changing your behavior.

                Not everything always goes according to our master plan. You will need to be patient, be open to a bump in the road. The bump can lead you to places you never imagined.  Learn from the bump and then adapt and adjust the blueprint.  It is these times, these moments, that can really move the needle in the direction we long to go. 

                Most important, adapt and re-evaluate the route chosen. Don’t get stuck, continue to progress forward and stay focused on the prize, the end result.  Keep those goals challenging, specific, positive and flexible. Continue to challenge yourself through this journey of discovery. Try something new; take a class just for the pure sake of learning. Keep your goal short, to the point and specific. This is how you will get to where you are going. Your blueprint needs to be precise and to the point.  Instead of focusing on making a change in 10 different things focus on just one or two items. Next, we spend far too much time putting ourselves down, living in a world of “could haves” and “would haves.”  Instead radiate positivity, spend some time celebrating all the great amazing changes that you have made so far.  Write them all down and then celebrate, I mean really find joy in your progress and the changes that you have made so far. Being positive and kind to your self is vital; you never know how your attitude can impact someone else. Last, be flexible, be open and learn to be free from the things that hold you back from being where you really want to go. 

                The enjoyment isn’t always in the destination; it is most often the journey itself that brings joy and contentment. What will your 2017 journey look like? Will you decide to get out of your comfort level and check off some things on your bucket list? Don’t wait for an opportunity to seize the beautiful, quiet moments and make your mark and leave your stamp today. 

A few tips to stay in the holiday spirit this season

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Alas, the holiday season is upon us, the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? If you listen to television ads isn’t that what they claim? For some it’s a time of great stress and worry and it’s not the most wonderful time of year. But have no fear as a little connection to your mind, body and spirit may just help you survive the chaos of the season. It’s is a time to spread joy to others and bring joy and inner peace to yourself, as well.

Start the season off by being kind to yourself. Plan to have fun and a lot of it. Get together with friends and actually make time to celebrate the season and maybe even find time for a holiday drink, playing board games or just getting together for a wonderful holiday lunch and visit. A little holiday visit with good friends can truly make the holiday season that much more special.

Exercise and watch your waist line. Not only will exercise help keep the holiday pounds off, but it can actually help decrease stress. Eating well can also take you into January with no weight gain. Remember the average person gains 5 to 7 pounds through holiday season. Be mindful through the season and your body will be so grateful.

Start purchasing holiday gifts early. Better yet, make some of your gifts. You can find many great ideas on Pinterest. We all know the best gifts are homemade and come from the heart.

Take a time out. Practice peace of mind. Perhaps morning meditation or yoga can set your path for a peaceful day. Better yet, take some time to be lazy and read a good book or just find a moment of quiet.

Get organized in work and play. Don’t wait until the last minute to make a deadline or to check off all your holiday “to-do lists” done. Planning is a significant key to success; don’t wait until tomorrow to get things done today.

Bring joy to others. Visit an old friend or relative. Really visit, be present and put your phone or tablet away. Sometimes we are so connected to everyone else that we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Talk, visit and simply live in the moment.

Volunteer your time and talents. Where can you spread joy this holiday season? Wrap presents at the mall, shop for a shut-in or spend some time helping out at Watertown Urban Mission or other community organizations that need help. Volunteering is wonderful and truly makes you and others feel amazing.

Make a donation small or large to a worthy organization. Every little bit helps. Never underestimate the value of your monetary gift. Surprise the person behind you at the drive-through and pay for their order. Don’t walk by a Salvation Army Kettle without a little donation. My favorite is to give a gift card to a friend or co-worker without signing your name.

Be patient with others. Our lives are busy and rushed and we are not always as patient as we should be. Patience truly is a virtue. Stop rushing and enjoy these beautiful holiday moments. Relax and you will get through the line in a store or get to your destination. Smile along the way as it makes everyone feel better.

Practice the simple act of kindness in this crazy, ruthless world in all that you do. Everyone wants to react; take time to pause and just be kind. Just laugh when life throws you a curve ball. We truly need to laugh at life a little longer a little harder. Don’t be so serious. Relax and enjoy every single holiday moment and besides practicing kindness never hurt anyone. Don’t let the holiday season stress you out. Practice kindness in all things for yourself and others. Your mind, body and spirit will certainly thank you.

I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and the healthiest of years ahead in 2017. Seize the opportunity to start anew and make it your best year yet.

Winter 2016 Fitness: Quick Fitness for the Busy Life

At the Office Stretches

These five quick exercises are designed to alleviate the stresses placed on the body by working full-time at a desk job.

At Home Strength Exercises

The strength exercises in this video are designed for a quick, simple workout that doesn’t involve a gym, exercise machines or accessories.

The exercises were designed and performed by Jamie Wood, owner of Page Fitness Athletic Club in Watertown, and Reuben Pruitt, head trainer at Page Fitness. Video by Amanda Morrison, NNY Living Magazine.

Winter 2016 Cover Story: Family Health and Wellness

A foundation for health & wellness

Ryder Blackburn, 6, jokes with classmates as they make a fruit parfait during Kids in the Kitchen cooking class at Calcium Primary School last month. Programs like Kids in the Kitchen aim to instill lasting healthy habits in children so they don’t carry unhealthy habits into adulthood. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Ryder Blackburn, 6, jokes with classmates as they make a fruit parfait during Kids in the Kitchen cooking class at Calcium Primary School last month. Programs like Kids in the Kitchen aim to instill lasting healthy habits in children so they don’t carry unhealthy habits into adulthood. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Families should strive to make fitness a lasting habit for the future

By Karee Magee, NNY Living

While leading a healthy lifestyle may seem to be easier said than done in today’s busy society as parents juggle work and family, the problem might be the way health and wellness is viewed. [Read more…]

Gabriel the service dog fighting to get back home to his disabled veteran owner

Jake Murphy says Gabriel is ‘a great friend.’ ANDREW CUNNINGHAM • TUFTS UNIVERSITY

Jake Murphy says Gabriel is ‘a great friend.’ ANDREW CUNNINGHAM • TUFTS UNIVERSITY

Gabriel the German shepherd has a fighting spirit just like that of the soldiers he was born to serve.

His kidneys are diseased, threatening his life. But it was his heart that captivated the staff of North Country Animal Health Center, 16760 state Route 3, Watertown, when he was brought in by his concerned out-of-state owners in May.

Now, Gabriel is battling to recover at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Boston. A drive has been started to fund his expensive kidney treatment so he can return to his master in Texas, retired Army 1st Lt. Jake Murphy, a former Fort Drum soldier who lost his legs while fighting for his country in Afghanistan.

“Everybody at our clinic has been touched to see these two come in and to know how much they’ve gone through and what this dog really means,” said Dr. Shannon M. Vicario at the Animal Health Center. “It’s been very difficult.”

“The unconditional love of a dog is incredible,” said Lisa M. (Morgan) Murphy, Jake’s wife and a 2004 graduate of Sackets Harbor Central School. “They bonded really quickly.”

Gabriel was born three years ago at 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization in Ohio whose mission is to place service dogs with veterans who have lost use of their limbs or hearing and with disabled children.

Gabriel was in training to be placed with another Fort Drum soldier, Sgt. Derek T. McConnell of New Jersey. He died on March 18, 2013, at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., 20 months after suffering injuries in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device that threw him onto a second IED.

Karen A. Shirk, 4 Paws founder, then began looking for another soldier for Gabriel to serve. Mrs. Murphy heard about 4 Paws through the Maryland-based Yellow Ribbon Fund, dedicated to helping injured soldiers with the recovery process, and contacted Ms. Shirk.

When Ms. Shirk talked to Lt. Murphy, she discovered that he and Sgt. McConnell had served in the same unit and were injured on the same July day in 2011, but at different times. Sgt. McConnell was injured only hours after assisting with Lt. Murphy’s medical evacuation. Lt. Murphy also was a victim of an IED.

The pair had done physical therapy together at Walter Reed. Gabriel, coincidentally, had become a special bond.

Mr. Murphy, a native of Wellesley, Mass., left the service several months after being wounded and moved to Flower Mound, Texas, with his wife after accepting a job at Verizon in Houston. He received Gabriel about a year ago. He said the dog has helped him physically and emotionally.

“He’s a great animal, has a great personality and is a great friend,” he said. “He was always willing to help me out whenever I needed it.”

It’s a relationship that hasn’t been the same since Mr. and Mrs. Murphy took a vacation in May to visit his family in Massachusetts and her family in Sackets Harbor.

the diagnosis

While the couple was in Massachusetts and preparing to drive to New York state, they noticed that Gabriel didn’t seem to be feeling right.

“He started throwing up and wasn’t eating much,” Mrs. Murphy said.

They took him to a clinic in Massachusetts, near Mr. Murphy’s hometown, where tests were done. One was for leptospirosis, an infection caused by the leptospira bacteria, which Gabriel had been vaccinated against.

After the tests, the Murphys, with Gabriel, drove to Sackets Harbor to visit Lisa’s mom, Donna Finch. They had made an appointment at North Country Animal Health Center.

The center’s staff knew Gabriel. He had come in during the summer of 2013 in high spirits for a routine checkup. Everything checked out fine then.

“Gabriel is a very nice shepherd,” Dr. Vicario said.

But when he arrived at the center on May 14, it was a different situation. He was a patient at the center for five days, during which the positive test results came back. Gabriel had leptospirosis. The bacteria was attacking his kidneys and shutting them down.

“His values were slowly getting worse,” said Dr. Vicario. “Nothing was getting better.”

Despite his sickness, Gabriel showed strength and loyalty to his owners and the center’s staff, Dr. Vicario said.

“He was very interested in going for walks, and wanting to play with his tennis ball,” she said.

But as Gabriel’s kidney function declined further, there was nothing more they could do.

“We all still get a little teary-eyed thinking about it,” Dr. Vicario said. “I had a hard time. I was relieved when they decided to go to Tufts. If I would have been faced with euthanizing that dog myself, that would have been very difficult to do.”

The Murphys informed Ms. Shirk about Gabriel’s condition. She said Gabriel’s leptospirosis was a form not covered by his vaccination for the bacteria, which is a common situation. The vaccine does not cover all strains of the disease.

Dr. Vicario said the disease is carried by a bacteria carried by wild animals like deer, raccoons and rats.

“They spread it in their urine that can end up in the water,” Dr. Vicario said. “So, if your dog swims in the lake or drinks out of any puddles, streams or whatever, they can be exposed to this bacteria.”

Ms. Shirk said she and the Murphys did some research and found that Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has a high success rate in treating Gabriel’s type of leptospirosis, which typically is fatal.

The treatment at Tufts involves kidney hemodialysis, in which a machine takes over the function of the kidneys and cleans the animal’s blood by circulating it through the machine.

“Unfortunately, it’s extremely expensive,” Ms. Shirk said. “I told Lisa, ‘Don’t worry about the funds. We’ll find the money. Take him to the best hospital. Give him a chance. If you don’t, he’s going to die.”

When Gabriel arrived at Tufts on May 19, his creatine (a chemical waste molecule) level was 17. The level for a healthy dog is 1.

The cost of hemodialysis is $1,500 a day. To cover it, Ms. Shirk and 4 Paws for Ability launched a “Help Save Gabriel” campaign on crowd-funding site Razoo. On May 19, the day the drive began, $20,000 was raised before midnight. As of Wednesday, $31,700 had been raised toward the goal of $45,000.

After Gabriel was admitted to Tufts, the Murphys stayed in Wellesley, about 50 miles away. They visited Gabriel daily. Mr. Murphy was able to stay for 3½ weeks, while Mrs. Murphy stayed for just over a month.

“For both of us, it was very difficult to leave and come back to a house without Gabriel,” said Mrs. Murphy, who is pregnant with a baby boy, who is scheduled to join the household in late summer.

Gabriel’s condition has improved from his dire original prognosis.

“Right when we were talking about having to make some hard decisions, all of a sudden, he started eating and his demeanor changed,” Ms. Shirk said.

She said that leptospirosis damages kidneys, but they could still potentially function with some damage.

“With leptospirosis, the kidneys go into failure, but they are not necessarily permanently damaged,” Ms. Shirk said. “So if you can take over with dialysis, and give the body time to heal, the kidney can often rebound.”

“An antibiotic will kill the bacteria, but the question is: Can you reverse the damage that’s been done to the kidney?” Dr. Vicario said. “That’s still sort of unknown.”

“Gabriel is fighting like there’s no tomorrow,” Ms. Shirk said. “And at this point, we’re not ready to stop. We are continuing to raise funds for treatment until we know that he’s better and can go back to Texas, or he’s not going to be able to ever come off of dialysis. That’s where we are right now. All we know is that Gabriel has turned a corner and Gabriel is fighting.”

A trip and hope

A little over a week ago, Gabriel was taken off dialysis for a few days. With his creatine level around 2.5, he spent some overnights at Mr. Murphy’s parents’ house in Wellesley.

“He’s eating, which is good,” Mrs. Murphy said. “But his kidneys are not where they need to be.”

She said the trips to Mr. Murphy’s parents’ home last week were an exercise in how Gabriel would do as an outpatient.

“Our goal, if all goes well, is to try to get him back to Texas next week and continue outpatient care here,” Mrs. Murphy said Wednesday. “Once he gets back here, we’re going to try to maintain his fluids with injections a couple times a day and see how he does with that.”

She holds out hope Gabriel’s kidneys will be able to work enough for him to survive on his own.

“At this point, we’re not really sure what his future looks like, but we want to give him as long and as good of a life as possible,” Mrs. Murphy said.

Gabriel is special to her because of the difference she has seen him make in her husband’s life.

“When we got Gabriel, it was such a crucial time of transitioning out of the military,” she said. “Jake was saying goodbye to a chapter of his life that he didn’t really say goodbye to on his own terms. He could have stayed in.”

But Mrs. Murphy said she and her husband decided it was time to move on to the civilian world.

“I think Gabriel helped him with that transition,” she said. “It gave him a focus, and just to have emotional support. … I don’t know for sure what it would have been like without Gabriel, but I think it made that transition a positive one.”

Ms. Shirk, who last year was named a CNN Hero for her work, said she has seen her share of heartbreak and diseases related to dogs. But she said it will be especially heartbreaking for her if Gabriel doesn’t pull through and go home to Texas.

“Normally, I can say, ‘Well, OK — You know, things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ But in this case, it’s just not right,” she said, her voice breaking. “I just can’t wrap my head around it. This man already lost so much … I caught that dog when he was born. I handed him to that man, and to have Gabriel only work for him for a year … it’s just not right.”

Mrs. Murphy said she and her husband will know better after this weekend about Gabriel’s future. If things look good, the plan is for her husband to fly to Massachusetts and fly back home to Texas with Gabriel. On Wednesday, she said Gabriel would have at least one more dialysis treatment at Tufts.

Gabriel appears on the right track to get him and his fighting spirit back to Texas. But sometimes, a good fight isn’t good enough. Hopeful plans can crumble. Mr. Murphy was asked about the possibility of a future without Gabriel.

“I’m optimistic it will all work out, but at the same time, I’ll accept that it may not,” he said.

He realizes that sometimes, sadly, not all can make it home.

“Just like in war,” he said.


How to help Gabriel:

An online fund drive has been created by 4 Paws for Ability to assist in Gabriel’s treatment at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The drive is through Razoo, a crowd-funding website for nonprofits.

TO DONATE: Visit http://wdt.me/LUZ8h2 or mail donations for Gabriel’s treatment to 4 Paws for Ability, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, OH 45385

MORE INFORMATION: 4pawsforability.org

By Chris Brock, Times Staff Writer


A survivor’s marathon

North country woman beats stroke to run historic Boston race [Read more…]

Lowville teacher and coach opens bicycle repair, art shop

Cycle Therapy owner Jacob K. Steria shows a desk clock he built from recycled bicycle parts in the workshop in the basement at his Sharp Street home in Lowville. Steve Virkler / Johnson Newspapers

Cycle Therapy owner Jacob K. Steria shows a desk clock he built from recycled bicycle parts in the workshop in the basement at his Sharp Street home in Lowville. Steve Virkler / Johnson Newspapers

An elementary teacher and coach is now peddling his skills in bicycle repair and art.

“I’ve always been kind of a tinkerer,” said Jacob K. Steria, owner of Cycle Therapy, 7661 Sharp St. “I enjoy it.” [Read more…]

What’s hot, what’s not in 2014

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

American College of Sports Medicine releases Top 10 list [Read more…]