Posts

TBT: The Harmonious Homes of Dr. Merle Kindred

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Near the beginning of this millennium, I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Dr. Merle Kindred, a woman of the world who has dedicated her long, beautiful life to building a cozy future for all the people and other living beings that inhabit our planet.Although Merle no longer owns a house in the Keweenaw, she has left a legacy of wonderful human habitats for others there and in many other locations around the globe. She continues to educate and inspire developers and home builders with the warm care, wisdom, and complex technical knowledge she has gathered over many decades of thoughtful work, building not just structures but relationships and sustainable ways of life.Below is the post I wrote when I was a young, traveling activist in the 2000s. Merle offered me and my supervisor hospitality on a journey to organize rural Michigan for health care reform, and she also gifted us with a tour of her showpiece Northern Michigan home as well as a photographic tour of her house in Kerala, Indi…

$Monday: The Race to Keep a Roof Over Our Heads

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The American Dream in 2020 is to not be homeless. This summer, up to 40 million of us are on the verge of losing our homes due to an inability to make rent or mortgage payments. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already homeless, which is too many on a perfect day. During the pandemic, it has become suddenly impossible to safely house the usual, insufficient number of people in existing shelters while homelessness has become a much bigger public health crisis than it was before.
Most people who struggle to stay in their homes find somewhere else to go and don't experience true homelessness, at least not for long, but forcing people to bounce around among inadequate living situations has serious health and economic consequences. Putting down roots in a safe and healthy habitat is one of the most important determinants of future success.
This is always true, but during quarantines, personal space and privacy aren't luxuries so much as basic necessities. So do whatever you can…

TBT: Buddhist Meditations

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Zen meditations! Inspirational quotes! Sick burns! Buddhism offers them all. As many American college students do, I enjoyed studying and practicing Buddhist rituals in college. As a recovering Catholic from a weirdly fundamentalist, Germanic-ish family tradition, I found the "bells and smells" of Buddhist temples familiar in a comforting way and the anti-dogmatic edge of Zen exhilarating in a refreshing way. I learned that extreme prayer and self-control are not owned by Christians, nor is smug superiority. What valuable lessons for a young person to learn.

So valuable, in fact, that in our late 30s, my husband and I are still paying the bills for our private college educations.


Can you put a price on ancient wisdom?

Is that a koan?

In my earliest adulthood, I took solace in the meditations below. Please enjoy them here on the Magic Nutshell, free of charge.

Buddhist Meditations
The Buddha sought a middle path between asceticism and materialism. All over the world, people are ha…

$Monday: Can You Breathe?

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You can't earn or save money if you can't even breathe. One reason why "it's expensive to be poor" is that people who live in lower-income neighborhoods don't get enough clean air to breathe. I've demonstrated that "You can't afford a poor diet," and it's even more obvious that you can't give up oxygen to save money. Poor air quality destroys productivity, and the terrible costs of air pollution are mainly borne by the individuals who suffer health conditions, disability, cognitive impairment, and premature death due to their lack of access to clean air.

On top of air pollution hazards, the accelerating Covid-19 pandemic is threatening Americans' ability to breathe. Meanwhile, cries of "I can't breathe" draw our attention to escalating police brutality and our federal government militarizing Brownshirt-resembling forces against its own citizens who are protesting peacefully and within their rights according to the l…

TBT: Keep on the Sunny Side

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The science on striking a healthy balance between absorbing sunshine and avoiding sunshine remains confusing. Before re-posting my old opinion below from ye olde turn-of-the-century, I had to remove all the links to my sources because they're all dead by now. Last year, I read some interesting articles on this issue called "Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?" and "No, Sunscreen is NOT the New Margarine." Neither of them can provide a clear answer to how much sun a person should get, and I suspect that the answer is both individualized and complicated.

I've given up on asking doctors about this in person. When I've asked for their personal opinions on the controversy, most of them have given me a blank stare, followed by a mumbling of, "Current guidelines are..." I even started seeing a dermatologist for annual skin cancer screenings, as recommended by every popular women's magazine I've ever seen in a medical waiting room. My dermatologis…

$Monday: Skip the Supplements (Unless Medically Advised)

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Dietary supplements cost more and do less for your health than nutritious food. Popping a pill is not a good financial or health choice unless you have a specific condition that is truly treatable with a supplement AND it is not possible to consume enough of the nutrient you need in real food AND your supplement is not a fake. Otherwise you are literally flushing money (and possibly your health) down the toilet.


It's tempting to buy into the fantasy of a pill that can fix something or even provide an "insurance policy" without doing any harm. The truth is more complex. Sometimes vitamins and herbal supplements can help, but the poorly regulated supplement industry is filled with fake news, false claims, and literal sawdust posing as active ingredients--or worse.

If a nutrient is good for you in a whole food, it might not be good for you when processed into a pill or tablet or gummy or whatever.

If something is good for you in a precise amount, more is not better. You can…

TBT: Get a Second Opinion

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Ouch! The story in the throwback post below was a painful lesson for me to learn as a young woman. I'm better off now, with a family practice I trust and more experience in effective self-care.

The problems with our national health care situation have... let's say, not resolved since I wrote this, so it's still on us citizens to keep on advocating for federal change and also for ourselves as patients at the same time. Godspeed, fellow humans. Take care.


Get a Second Opinion Poor and fabulous friends, take care of yourselves! You can't completely trust our corrupt health care and insurance systems to do it.

Health care providers are human beings just like everyone else. Most of them are people who entered the field of health care because they wanted to take care of others. Most of them, I'm sure, are good people. But even good people are... well, people. People who can be influenced by profit margins and unconscious prejudices that could be harmful to us as patien…