First Time Meditating

“I remember the first time that I tried formal meditation. I sat amidst a group of compassionate people with closed eyes who were letting go of all thoughts, focusing attention on their breath. I felt no compassion for myself as my monkey mind skittered about. I felt self-conscious about my constant twitching and resituating, certain I was irritating the peaceful beings around me. More than that, I simply didn’t enjoy the experience. My anxious mind raced into terrifyingly uncomfortable places. I left feeling that meditation is a great thing…for other people but not for me!”


That paragraph is the first paragraph in a guest post that I did awhile back for Lion Brand Yarn about the benefits of crochet when used as a meditative tool. In that post I went on to discuss how crochet could be used to focus and therefore can be conducive to practicing meditation when you’re either a beginner at it or dealing with issues such as anxiety.

I’m curious whether others have found meditation to be difficult … is it something that you disliked and then came to like? Something you tried and never did again? Something you fell in love with from day one? What was your first experience with meditation?


Sadly I’ve Joined the Health Insurance Death Spiral

Two years ago I wrote an article about health insurance rate hikes and the so-called death spiral. At the time I was happily insured. I’m sad to say I’ve now had to join the death spiral.

The Death Spiral

Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote two years ago:

“Health insurance representatives say that medical costs have gone up, which results in a relatively standard rise in health insurance rates. And that’s when things take another turn for the worse: In today’s economy, many people can’t afford those higher premiums, so they decide to stop buying health insurance. Those who are healthy — that is, those for whom health insurance doesn’t seem like a must-have — are particularly likely to opt out of health plans when they cost more. The result is fewer people — in particular, fewer healthy people — in the membership pool, which drives average rates up further, which bumps more people out, and so on. This vicious cycle is colorfully termed a “death spiral” in the insurance market.”

My Health Insurance More Than Tripled

I am self-employed and single so I pay for my own individual health insurance plan. I got my insurance about five yeras ago, using eHealthInsurance to try to find the best insurance for me. I got a decent plan with HealthNet for less than $100 per month. And I will say that when I went through debilitating depression and needed weekly therapy and lots of medication it really did come through for me. But the problem is that they kept raising the rates and raising the rates and raising the rates.

For awhile now I’ve been paying $288 per month and that was really a lot of money. It’s not like the plan covers everything; I still had to pay a lot of money out of pocket for situations that arose on top of that monthly payment. I recently received a notice that the monthly amount was going up again, by 14% to $330 per month. I’m just not in a position to pay that much per month for health insurance. It simply can’t happen. So I had to explore other options.

I Don’t Qualify for a Cheaper Plan

When I received the notice from HealthNet it said there might be options to transfer to a cheaper plan. I talked to HealthNet representatives and filed an application but in the end they denied me for a cheaper plan. They cited my history of depression as a pre-existing condition and a reason to deny me. So frustrating.

I contacted eHealthInsurance to see if they could help me. They suggested a plan with BlueShield. I filled out a really lengthy application and then spent an additional thirty minutes on the phone with them answering questions about my depression treatment (which was years ago now) and a sprained ankle I went to the ER for a year and a half ago. They denied me coverage.

I’ve Canceled My Health Insurance

At this point, I don’t really see any viable options for health insurance. I can’t qualify for a cheaper plan and I can’t pay for the plan I already have. I really, really hate the risky idea of not having health insurance but I don’t see any other option. I’ve canceled my health insurance and will just have to see what happens in the months to come.

I do plan to keep exploring my options. Those options include:

  • Local health insurance alternatives for the uninsured
  • Joining a professional organization to try to get a group rate (such as the National Association for Self-Employed)
  • Waiting and hoping something better comes along (either because enough time passes since my treatment to lower my rates or because healthcare changes)

I’m nervous. I don’t like joining the death spiral. But that’s the way it is right now, like it or not.


5 Components of a Depression Wellness Plan

I struggled with undiagnosed depression for almost fifteen years before I got it under control. This isn’t unusual but it’s awful. What I learned from my fight is that the way through to the other side of depression is different for everyone but there are certain things that are worth trying as you piece together your approach to healing from this condition.

MK Carroll is someone else who has dealt with depression. She recently wrote about my book, Crochet Saved My Life, and her experience in contributing a story to the book. In her post, she has identified some key things to suggest for people who are trying to help themselves through depression. She suggests:

  1. Medical care if it’s available. Her experience (and one I’ve seen as well) is that it’s tough to find good mental health care and can even be impossible if you’re uninsured. But if it’s an option, it’s important to find a good psychologist/psychiatrist to come up with the right treatment for depression for you.
  2. Diet. MK Carroll found that it was really important to eat healthy in order to feel healthy. We each have different sensitivities. This wasn’t a huge issue for me but I do know that a diet with lower amounts of sugar, caffeine and alcohol does typically feel better for me.
  3. Exercise. MK found that exercise was important to her mental health and I’d say this is generally true. A lot of people have told me that just walking every day helped them a lot. I did yoga, when I could muster the energy to move, and that was helpful for me in many ways.
  4. “Applying good moderating skills to my thought processes”. MK had to learn to do this on her own. It’s something that can also be learned in therapy or through a meditation program.
  5. Crochet. MK shared her story with me specifically because I was looking for information about how people used crochet to heal from depression and other health issues so of course it makes sense to include it in our depression wellness plan. She says in her post, “Crochet can be an excellent way to do things for others, get involved with positive social groups, and meditate.” Learn more about crochet for depression from the book.

I would also add that it’s really crucial to come up with a good support system that you can reach out to when you’re going through depression. I had a few good friends, family members and my psychologist and that was immensely helpful.

What else would you suggest for coping with depression?


Journey Off of Birth Control

It is four thirty in the afternoon and I’m really just kind of getting going. Despite the stereotypes about people who work from home sleeping in and spending all day in their pajamas, I don’t usually do this. Actually, I didn’t do it today either. I did get up and take a package to UPS and get some groceries but then I came home and I felt tired so I thought I’d take a quick nap and before I knew it the day had slipped away. Sometimes you have to honor what your body needs.

That’s actually going to be a big focus for me in the next month or so. On the one hand, I’m getting back into an exercise routine and trying to get going with that. But on the other hand I’m making some changes to my medications and I’m not sure how they are going to affect the way that I feel so I need to pay attention to that as well. I had been on Ambien for awhile and am now almost completely off it so that’s one change down. Now I’m on to what may be a bigger change – getting off of birth control pills.

I’ve been on birth control pills for about five years straight through. Prior to that I had been on them for several years in the past with a gap between that and the most recent usage starting. I’ve decided it’s time to come off of them for several reasons. An obvious reason is that I’m not in a relationship anymore and I don’t foresee starting one anytime soon. And even if I do, I would want to use condoms for a long time with any new partner until we both had been monogamous for six months and done STD testing, etc. You know, the whole adult approach to sexuality. So as far as preventing pregnancy, I don’t feel like I need the pill.

I also don’t feel like I want to be on it anymore because I have this underlying sense that my body is changing and I want it to be able to do that without synthetic hormones so I can get a sense of what’s really going on with it. I’ve gained a lot of weight in the past year or so and it’s hard to take it off and I’m not sure why that is. It could have absolutely no relationship to the pill but I feel like it may be some type of aging hormonal thing and there’s a nagging intuition that going off of the pill may help. We’ll see. I’ve done the research and there’s a possibility of either weight loss or weight gain when going off the pill but either way it should even itself out after a month or two. And after that I’ll see where things stand.

I have some nervous feelings about going off of the pill. For one thing, I’ve been on it continuously, cycling through, meaning that I only have periods about four times per year. I’ve always had some bad PMS symptoms when off the pill and I’m not relishing experiencing those once a month again. More importantly, I worry about how this might affect my moods. The PMS symptoms I’m aware of are all physical. Prior to going back on the pill, I hadn’t really realized how affected I was by serious depression. That depression is now under control with medication but there’s no telling what kind of moods or feelings will be incurred during the process of getting the pill out of my system and getting my hormones back in working order. My psychiatrist is aware of this and these days I have the good sense to ask for help if I need it so I’m not scared but am a little nervous to see what happens.

At the same time, I’m also a little curious. This is really the first time in my life that I’ve been truly in touch with what’s going on with my body and my moods and I think it’s going to be a good experience to have the opportunity to learn more about the natural state of my body (mostly natural – I’ll still be on anti-depressants). So we’ll see. Hopefully all goes well.


Five Ways to Change Your Life for the Better!

Nobody should be afraid of trying out new experiences.

Often, we’re at our happiest when we have something to look forward to. These five ‘life-changing’ ideas are all about setting goals for yourself, working towards those goals and enjoying a sense of achievement when you reach them.

Sometimes the things we would like to try cost money. How often have you thought ‘if only I were a millionaire …’? Getting on top of your finances as they stand today is a good place to start working towards a wealthier lifestyle.

Go traveling

They say that travel ‘broadens the mind’. Sometimes a change of scene is all that’s needed to lift yourself out of the doldrums. If you don’t know where you’d like to go, ask friends and relatives about their travels and where they recommend. Borrow travel guides, watch documentaries and research countries and cultures on the internet. You don’t need to go around the world for new experiences – a simple city break may be all that’s needed for a change in perspective. Set up a savings account for your travel funds and watch it grow over the weeks and months.

Change career

If your career is leaving you unfulfilled, have you ever considered retraining in something else? You could volunteer in your spare time in a role that interests you. Perhaps you’ve always had a burning passion to work with children or animals, or to write a novel? If you’re in a steady job with a secure income, you’ll need to think very carefully before you do anything hasty like ‘jumping ship’. However, there is no harm in seeking career guidance.

Get (better) qualified

If your qualifications (or lack of them) are holding you back, look into government funding, bursaries or student loans for your chosen field of expertise. You might be eligible for government funding for teaching and nursing as well as for some other professions. Education can be for fun too – dark winter evenings can be brightened up with an evening class in something that interests you. Taking up a new course can be a good way to meet new people and get your grey matter working.

Repay debt and start a savings account

It’s always a good idea to have some savings in your bank account for a rainy day. If you have debts, it can be difficult to save – but repaying the money you owe is a worthy goal in itself.

If you have debts and you’re struggling to pay them off, you might be able to change your situation for the better on a debt solution like a debt management plan or an IVA (find out more about these here). These solutions are only for people who are really struggling to repay their debts – but anyone in debt can take a few steps to improve their situation.

The first step is to draw up a budget and address your spending. If you’re spending more than your income, try cutting back on spending where you can. If you’ve already tried this and it’s not making enough of a difference, it might be time to get some expert debt advice.


Volunteering for a charity that means something to you, or for a cause you believe in, is something probably everyone should try at least once in their lives. Whether you want to help other people or develop your career through voluntary work, volunteering is a worthwhile way to invest some of your spare time. If fitness is your goal, there are dozens of charities that need people to run, swim and climb mountains to raise money on their behalf.

There are dozens of ways to change your life for the better. You really need to think about your personal values and the things you want to achieve in your life. Think about what you would need to do to get where you want to be in life and use that as your motivation for change. Good luck!


Taking Good Care of Your Teeth

You would be shocked if you knew how much money I had spent on my teeth. I wish I could say that they are perfectly straight and stunningly white. But no, I’ve had to do serious work on them because of dental problems, not cosmetic work for appearances. I now take really good care of my teeth but it wasn’t always this way. That’s why I wanted to make a note of an article online called Tips for Oral Hygiene and Teeth Care. It provides a great reminder of how to take care of your teeth every day so you don’t encounter as many problems as I’ve had with mine!


Is It Smart To Pay Patients to Take Meds?

Non-compliance. It can refer to a lot of things but we most often hear it when we’re talking about taking your medications. People who choose not to take their prescribed medications as their doctors have ordered are guilty of non-compliance. Some say that’s their problem since they’re the ones who get sick from not taking their meds. Others, however, see it as a bigger social problem because these people who opt not to keep themselves well can end up costing the government a lot more in health care treatment down the line.

A lot of different things are being done to try to limit patient non-compliance. Enhanced education to alert patients about the importance of taking their medications correctly is one common approach. Sending text message alerts to patients when it’s time to take their meds is an increasingly common option. And now we’re starting to see patients get paid for taking their meds when they are supposed to.

One controversial new program uses a computerized pill dispenser system to enter people into a lottery system when they take their medication. Names are randomly drawn and money is awarded to the winner. This serves as an incentive for people to remember their meds. Of course, there is always the chance that these non-compliant folks aren’t ingesting the meds because they don’t believe they need them but the general idea is that forgetful patients will be more likely to remember their meds if there is monetary incentive to do so.

The controversy comes from the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay people to take their medication. Adults should take their meds because it’s what’s good for them. However, the programs seem to be successful in increasing medication compliance which could end up saving money for the government down the road. So is it a smart idea?

Prevention of disease is always smart. It’s a lot better to prevent it at a low cost than to have to pay a lot of money to treat it whether you’re the patient or the government’s health care program. There are probably better options for encouraging long-term medication compliance than paying people but there’s no doubt that money gets people to do things faster than most other things will. So maybe it’s not a great solution but it might be a smart one after all.

Via Neatorama


Coffee Viagra Containing Hydroxythiohomosildenafil Isn’t a Smart Choice

The FDA has warned that the consumption of a coffee-based sexual enhancement aid that contains an ingredient called hydroxythiohomosildenafil is not something that a smart person would choose to take. Hopefully that sounds obvious and you don’t need additional information but just in case:

  • The product, called Magic Power Coffee, contains an ingredient called hydroxythiohomosildenafil that is very similar to the main active ingredient in Viagra.
  • The problem with hydroxythiohomosildenafil is that it interacts with many other medications. The main risk that it poses is that it can rapidly decrease your blood pressure levels to levels that are dangerously low.
  • The risks of low blood pressure are many and range from the fairly innocuous problem of feeling lightheaded to more serious issues like temporary organ failure.
  • The biggest problem is that this product is an over-the-counter product that is labeled as an all natural dietary supplement. This causes people to think that it is safe when it may not be. This is a big problem with many over the counter medications supplements that are not fully regulated by the FDA.
  • Another clue that Magic Power Coffee may be a questionable product is that it is sold in large part by average people who are looking for a money-making sales opportunity. You can go on their website and get your own it to start selling this product. That’s not necessarily always bad but it’s definitely iffy.
  • In fairness, the FDA does not have any record of this product causing any serious health problems for anyone to date. However, they do recommend against taking this product due to the fact that it contains ingredients that are known to be unsafe.
  • And I do have to confess that the company’s marketing of the product as the world’s first passion coffee is intriguing even if the product itself turns me off. I don’t buy that you can improve your love life and your finances with this magic coffee but the advertising idea is certainly intriguing.
Stick with Ginseng, a natural energy booster that’s supposed to also be an aphrodisiac.

Question of the Week: What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Done to Lose Weight

Today’s question of the week is for people of both genders although women may be more likely to answer it than men will be. That’s because most of us women have struggled with body image issues at one point or another. We may now be at a point where we feel fairly confident in ourselves and can maintain healthy habits for weight loss but there was probably some point in time when we did unhealthy things to try to shed a few pounds.

So, today’s question of the week is:

What’s the worst thing that you’ve done to lose weight?

Have you tried fad diets, diet pills, starving yourself? Are you willing to admit it so that others can see that many women struggle with (and overcome) this issue? Why do you consider what you did to be so bad?

My answer to this question is that I tried diet pills and caffeine pills briefly in an effort to lose weight during my late teens. The pills made me feel sick so I stopped them pretty quickly. I’m a bit embarassed to admit that I even tried them because I feel like this isn’t something that educated, normal-weight women should be doing. And I think it’s a bad thing (for me anyway) because it reflected a serious lack of concern for my health compared to my interest in my appearance.

Please share your stories in the comments.


Reasons Not to Spay your Dog

I believe that it’s important to get your dog spayed or neutered. I know all of the good reasons for this. The most important reason is that there is a huge problem with pet overpopulation in America which results in a lot of unwanted and uncared for animals. I support getting your dog spayed.

However, I have to confess that not all of my pets over the years were spayed or neutered. When I was growing up, we had one dog that my parents didn’t bother to get spayed. every year we’d have a litter of puppies to enjoy and to learn from. Watching those babies be born and grow up was educational and exciting.

Even as an adult, I had one dog that I didn’t get neutered. I had a female and a male dog. The female was already spayed. I put off neutering the male and then more and more time passed and I’d never done it. He was almost always kept in the yard but there were definitely some times that he got out. I admit that my failure to neuter him was irresponsible because of that.

So I’m thinking about the pros and cons of spaying your dog. When I weight them against one another, I come out of it believing that almost everyone should get their dog spayed or neutered. It’s the responsible thing to do. However, I can see some reasons that you might not get your dog spayed.

The main reason that you wouldn’t get your dog spayed is because you want to breed the dog. This could be because you’re breeding a dog for money or it could be a more general case like when I was a kid and we liked having puppies around. You have to consider the consequences of your actions if you want your pet to have puppies but for some people it’s going to be the right thing to do.

What do you think? Is it always wrong not to get your pet spayed? Or is it acceptable for some people to choose not to neuter their pets?