Watch Your Mouth

It always amazes me how little attention we pay to what we say. As parents, I don't think we realize the import of what we say to our children.  Our words are very influential and therefore, we really have to think  before we speak.  I came across this image, which sums up what we should do before we speak. 

Many of us, myself included,  sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment and react verbally. We blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, instead of reflecting, even for a moment what the possible impact of our words may be. There  is a nursery rhyme that I remember as a child about sticks and stones. I am sure many of you are familiar with that rhyme. Many of us were taught this as a mantra to comfort us whenever we were on the receiving end of verbal assaults. I personally don't remember it being an effective balm for my wounds.

 

It is not just the words that we say directly to our children, but also the words we say about them.  I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but kids have ears. They hear very well, especially what is said about them. Sometimes, they may appear to be  engrossed in play, but later on, they may come to you with a comment or a question related to whatever you were saying in their presence.  They are indeed paying close attention, despite appearing to be distracted.  Thus, it is crucial that you watch your mouth and not say derogatory or mean things about your children in their presence. 

Several weeks ago, I was interviewing a mother about her moderately overweight twenty-four month old boy's diet. I was shocked to hear her say, "my son is like a garbage can, he eats anything and everything."  I must admit that I was at a loss for words. I did not expect to hear such an outrageous statement, and I had no reply.  I guess I missed a good opportunity to offer some words of advice. It was obvious to me that her son was not disappointing her, and in fact would continue to eat as she expected.  I will not be surprised if he continues to have a weight problem for the rest of his childhood. One thing  for sure is that our words have a lot of  power. We need to choose and use our words wisely. 

Another reason that I decided to remind my readers about the power of our words is because of an experience I had last week.  While I was in Carriacou, evaluating patients at CHS,  a nurse mentioned to me that one of the mothers said that she does not like to take her toddler out because she is too ugly.  I was surprised because I honestly thought that every mother thinks her child is the most beautiful. Especially since mothers are known to be biased and because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

When I saw the little girl in her long  floral dress I thought she had a nice smile and a pleasant disposition. I did not see anything "ugly" about her. Her mom was young and attractive and had a nice smile as well. Looking at the two of them together, I nearly did not believe the report of the nurse, but I then realized that the nurse would have no reason to lie.  The first question that came to my mind was who had told the mother that about herself when she was little? Obviously, this mom must have had and may still have low self esteem to be saying such derogatory things about her own daughter in her presence.

Let us endeavour to love our children not only in deeds but also in our words. Try to use words of encouragement and love to them. Let them hear you speaking positively about them to others. Research has shown that it is much more effective to discipline with  positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement. In other words, it is easier to get a child to repeat a behaviour by giving compliments and praise when they do something right, than to berate them and embarrass them when they do something wrong. Try it yourself and see. Try to catch your son or daughter doing something right, then knowledge and thank them, and see how quickly the behaviour will be repeated. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe

P.S. this can be applied successfully to spouses as well.

 

Happy Anniversary

Last weekend was a very busy one for us. We attended two weddings on Saturday the 16th of August. There were at least 3 others that we knew of , and I am sure there were probably several more.  Marriage is such an interesting institution. Many people see it as the ultimate goal in a relationship. However, it is only when you make the commitment that you realize that it is not the end, but the very beginning of a new phase in your relationship and your life.

Married people always have advice for those who are engaged or newly married, and I am no exception. Three things I usually advise prospective spouses are;

1. Marriage does not automatically change a person. Any characteristics that you did not like before you married your spouse will still be there after the ceremony.

2. Just because you love one another does not enable you to read each other's minds, so you will both have to communicate regularly.

3. Marriage can be compared to  a plant. In order to grow and thrive, time and attention will be required for regular nurturing and tending.

4. Marriage can be a wonderful, intimate lifelong relationship that can give you support to develop other aspects of your life, both personal and professional.

 Celebrating 25 years of marriage by renewing our vows with family and friends August 2011 at the Woburn Methodist Church.

Celebrating 25 years of marriage by renewing our vows with family and friends August 2011 at the Woburn Methodist Church.


Ferron and I will be celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary this Friday.  Three years ago we renewed our vows at our church. It was nice to have our children take part in the ceremony and to have our relatives and friends present to share in this special occasion with us. It is hard to believe that three years have passed already.

I have been blessed with a wonderful, patient, generous spouse who has supported me in good times and stressful times.  I strive to be as loving, patient and supportive of him and our children. One thing I have learned is that the more I work on loving and accepting myself exactly as I am, is the more I can love and accept my husband and children.

 A long time ago, Ferron and I agreed that divorce is not an option. I think that agreeing to that helped to reaffirm our commitment to one another and gave us the confidence to know that no matter what, we would stand by one another. I believe that because divorce is so accessible, many couples choose the easy way out, instead of trying to work things out and stay committed, they opt to end things when there are challenges. So far marriage has been an amazing journey and I look forward to many more years ahead together. 

 Blissfully happy on our special day.

Blissfully happy on our special day.

I am thankful for the children that we have been blessed with. I continue to work on being a loving and supportive mother and role model for them in these challenging times. Despite my demanding career, I still place great emphasis on family and togetherness. 

 Hasani, Sharifa, me, Ferron, Malaika and Kalonji as we celebrated our renewal of ours vows on our 25th Anniversary.

Hasani, Sharifa, me, Ferron, Malaika and Kalonji as we celebrated our renewal of ours vows on our 25th Anniversary.

I still believe that the family is the real foundation of our community. If we could invest time in nurturing our families, our society would be better off.  This would have positive effects on our individual countries and the world at large.

I hope you make time to communicate with your partner and your relatives. Tell them how much you care and better yet, show them by  your actions how much you value them.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe

 

Enjoy Each Moment

I think as adults many of us take ourselves too seriously. We get caught up in  the mundane daily obligations and stresses, and we don't take time to enjoy everyday pleasures.   It is so easy to think about past events, reliving them in our minds over and over; often with regret. Or to continuously  anticipate the future, either with hope, but more often with anxiety. The present, the moment that we are in, is so often overlooked. Unless we make a deliberate effort to become mindful and aware, the instant is gone, poof!  It is almost as if we live our lives unconsciously.  I too am guilty of this, often my busy schedule gets the best of me and I focus on what I have to do next, instead of what I am actually doing now. Sometimes, before I know it, the day is practically over and I have to stop and think of what occurred  during that day. 

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Learning to be mindful is not difficult, it just takes practice. One easy way to start is to use your senses. Begin by focusing on your breath, try it right now. As you sit reading this begin to notice your breath flowing into your nostrils and  down into your lungs. Feel your chest rise as the air fills it, and notice how it relaxes as you exhale.  Have you ever realized that the air you exhale is warmer that the air you inhale? Notice that right now. Then use your ears to hear your breath as you inhale and exhale a bit more deeply through your nostrils. Can you hear it? Listen to the sounds around you. Many times we stop hearing familiar sounds. Deliberately pay attention to your surroundings. There are so many sounds going on around you constantly, that your brain stops hearing them because it gets used to those sounds.  One good example is the sounds of the crickets and frogs at night. We are so accustomed to them that we  stop paying attention, and literally stop hearing the sounds of the night.  Many times, it is only when I am on Skype with my Dad and he remarks on the Coqui that I actually hear the sounds of the night.  Use your sense of touch now, and become aware of your body.  Notice what you are sitting on or lying against. Feel it against your body. What are your hands doing? Are they holding something or pushing on keys. How do your fingers feel right now? Notice your limbs and your feet. What of the smell. Are you aware of any scent in the air?  Notice the  taste in your mouth right now. Feel your teeth with your tongue. Once you have scanned your body, then just observe your surroundings. When is the last time that you actually looked at the walls of the place you are in right now, or observed your surroundings if you are outdoors?  All the while you are doing this just continue to breathe and be. Don't try to judge any of the sensations that you are noticing. This kind of mindfulness practice helps to relax the mind and allows it to slow down. By doing this regularly, you can manage stress more easily. Whenever you are in the present moment, it is difficult to be anxious or worried because you are in the now.  


The mind, body and spirit are intimately connected and I believe that a lot of the dis-ease we experience is due to the constant busyness of our lives.  We are constantly doing, doing, doing and not just being.  We do not make the time to relax, be in the moment and feel thankful for our blessings. Many of us are in the habit of working constantly, worrying, and not enjoying ourselves. I think many of us would feel better and enjoy lives more if we made time during our day to stop, focus our breath, become present, and feel thankful for the good things in our lives.

 

I often see patients in the office who have no specific complaint. They don't know what's wrong.They have lots of aches and pains and  just don't feel well. I ask them specific questions about their physical health focusing on their symptoms. Then I ask them questions they may not expect from a medical doctor. I ask them if they are happy with their lives - personally in their relationships, home environment and community; professionally - at their workplace, among their colleagues; and spiritually - do they pray, meditate, go to church etc.  Their responses often reveal the source of the problem. Many times, it is the stress, unhappiness or grief that is causing their physical symptoms. I tell them as much and make appropriate suggestions.  Most times, it is not a prescription for a pill. Tablets do not cure everything. These patients, once they become aware of the fact that they have to make changes in their lives and start to do so, begin to feel better. 

Make time to become present, enjoy each moment with gratitude, and just be.

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe

Increased Flexibility In Both Body and Mind Are Essential

Flexibility is an important, but often neglected, indicator of health. Strength training and cardiovascular conditioning are traditionally the primary focus of many personal fitness programs. Building muscle is important, because after the age of 30 we normally lose 1/2 to 1% of our muscle mass each year, and muscle strength may decline by as much as 12 - 15% per decade. Muscle is also more metabolically active than fat, so at rest, it burns more calories. This is why  weight training is an effective component of any weight loss program. Cardiovascular fitness is important because the risk of coronary artery disease and all cause mortality in both men and women is decreased in those who are aerobically fit.  Many people are aware of this, but what of flexibility?

 Demonstrating King Dancer's pose in Spice Harmony Yoga Studio,  located on the third floor of Brooks-Smith Lowe Institute in Calivigny, St. George.

Demonstrating King Dancer's pose in Spice Harmony Yoga Studio,  located on the third floor of Brooks-Smith Lowe Institute in Calivigny, St. George.

Flexibility is defined as the quality of bending easily without breaking. It can best be described as the ability to move the joints through their full range of motion easily.  When muscles are tight and short, they pull constantly on your bones, decreasing the normal range of motion of your joints. This can result in stiffness, limiting the movement of the joints and can increase the risk of injury by overstretching your muscles.  Many people suffer from lower back pain, as a result of tight lower back, gluteal and hamstring muscles pulling on the pelvis and causing misalignment of the lower spine. These muscles become tight as a result of prolonged sitting on a daily basis.  To prevent this it is important that we incorporate more movement on a day to day basis and include regular stretching into our fitness routine to improve flexibility and decrease the risk of injury. It is best to stretch already warmed up muscles gently, to the point of awareness and not discomfort.  Gradually, the range of motion of your joints will increase if stretching is done  routinely.

The sit and reach test measures how far a person can reach beyond their toes while in a sitting position. This is a common objective measure of flexibility.  A study published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2009 found that among people aged 40 and over, performance on the sit and reach test can be used to assess the flexibility of their arteries. Arterial stiffness is the earliest indicator of cardiovascular disease. As a result of this, poor performance on this simple test has been associated with an increased risk of early mortality from stroke or heart attack.  This should further encourage the incorporation of flexibility training into your fitness program, especially if you are aged 40 or older.

The other definition of flexibility is the willingness to change or compromise. When I was preparing to write this blog post, I originally intended to write only about the concrete aspect of flexibility, but then I remembered  the abstract definition of flexibility. I also recalled a quote about middle age, and thought it appropriate to include some reflections about it.

Many of us tend to be inflexible in our attitudes, thoughts and expectations. This can result in increased stress in our lives because,  for the most part, we cannot change other people or control most of what happens in our lives. When we try to do this, we become frustrated, angry and bitter. We may become resentful and stressed out. The only thing we can definitely control is our reaction to what happens in our daily lives.  By increasing our mental flexibility by being more willing to change or compromise, we set the stage to be happier, more loving people . This has a domino effect, in that we, in turn, will attract more loving, willing people and we will have happier, more positive interactions with them. Start to change your life today by counting to ten before you react to something, and don't forget to breathe.

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe

 

The Story Continues: On Being a Parent Part 2

It has been one week and one day since my son had his unfortunate accident on his first day of camp.  So much has happened that it is amazing to realize that only 7 days have passed. My mother found a wonderful orthopedic surgeon. The only hitch was that Kalonji was going to have to wait two days to see him. The earliest available appointment was Wednesday at 4:30 pm, and his accident occurred on Monday at 1:15 pm.  When I heard his name, Dr. Paul Apostolo, I immediately felt better, probably because of my Christian upbringing. The apostle Paul was one of the most influential apostles, who was also known for his healing ability. I googled Dr. Apostolo, and after seeing his picture on his website, handsandjoints.com, I was even more comfortable, as he looked competent and kind. 

The two days of waiting were particularly difficult. Kalonji was very uncomfortable. His   entire forearm was in a splint. It was feeling hot, and itchy. It would also pain him intermittently. My parents were keeping him very quiet, so he was getting bored.  As a result, I was feeling tense, worried and unhappy. Of course, I kept reminding myself to relax, and think healing, positive thoughts and to affirm that all is well; but that is easier said than done. Ferron realized that I was stressing out, and when I asked him how he knew, since I made a point of not commiserating out loud, he said I kept sighing deeply all the time and having a serious, concerned look on my face.

Finally, Wednesday arrived.  I felt generally happy, but I also had mixed feelings, because up to that point, we still did not know whether or not Kalonji’s wrist was broken and whether or not he would have to be in a cast. I wanted to know, but at the same time I was afraid to know. Would his camp experience be ruined because he would have to be in a cast for several weeks or not, I pondered?

 I called my mom early on Wednesday evening to see what time she was planning to leave for the doctor’s appointment. I did not want any unforeseen circumstance to prevent him from seeing the doctor. We had been waiting for so long already. From 4:30 pm onwards, I made sure that Skype was on and that I was nearby to hear it, in case it rang. I also kept my cell phone on the loud setting, just in case.  I was on edge, and felt like I was on pins and needles.  By 5:30pm I could not take it anymore, I texted my mother to ask her how it was going.  She told me that despite my emergency health insurance card, the doctor required a down payment of US$150, before he would examine Kalonji. I ran to get my credit card and called her back immediately, but she had already written a check.

When I called her back half an hour later, she told me that Dr. Apostolo diagnosed him with a fracture of his wrist, and that he would have to be in a cast.  I felt sad, but deep down I think I knew, especially because of what Dr. Fleary had seen on the first set of x-rays. Particularly, because the place where he suspected the deformity was the exact place that Kalonji showed us he was having the pain.

Dr. Apostolo spoke to me before he treated Kalonji. He explained that the type of fracture was a mildly displaced Salter Harris 2 fracture of the distal radius. He was of the opinion that it was best to reduce it by pulling and squeezing the area that was displaced. He also felt it better not to give Kalonji an injection, because it would make him more anxious and it would not completely prevent the pain of the procedure.  

I agreed completely with him, but my heart contracted as I anticipated the pain that Kalonji was going to feel; and I, his mom would not be there to prepare him or comfort him. Unfortunately, I did not even suggest to my mother that Ibuprofen be administered before he went for his evaluation. Wow, sometimes it is so hard to be a mom and a doctor at the same time!  No wonder we are not supposed to treat our loved ones. It is difficult to think rationally and be objective where loved ones are concerned.

So after that, I went upstairs to attend to an emergency patient. A family had called me at 4:30pm with their ill toddler, but I explained to them that I would not be available until after 6pm due to a prior obligation.  I just felt that I had to be available for my mother, the specialist and my son at that time.  During the time I attended to my little patient, I could not help but think of Kalonji getting his little wrist yanked into place and a cast placed on it. The doctor told me that he would have to keep the cast on for 3 weeks, which would result in him removing it 2 days after he comes home.

Afterwards, I kept waiting and waiting to hear from my mom to find out how the procedure went and how Kalonji did.  I waited until 8pm, over 1 ½ hours later and I texted twice, no response. I called the home phone, the Skype numbers, and no answer. By that time my imagination took over, and I thought the worst. Maybe he refused to let the procedure be done; maybe he fainted… etc. etc.  The imagination is a powerful thing I realize, but maybe not as logical as we would always like it to be. In desperation, I texted my little sister, Katerina, whom I usually text when I can’t get in touch with my folks or don’t know what is going on in the family. Thank God for the younger generation, as they are always, always connected to and easily reached by technology and social media.

A few minutes later, my mom called me on Skype. She apologized that she did not get back to me afterwards, but reassured me that all went well. They were so tired and hungry after the whole ordeal that they ate Chinese food and were resting in the living room. I was able to see my son stretched out on the couch with his upper body cuddled in my mom’s arms. I was able to hear his little voice and I felt so much better.  This parenting thing is not easy, but I would not give it up for the world. 

 Kalonji, age 8 in his red cast posing in his grandparents' living-room in Randallstown, Maryland

Kalonji, age 8 in his red cast posing in his grandparents' living-room in Randallstown, Maryland

Since he has gotten his arm reduced and in the cast, Kalonji is so much happier. He is pain free and able to move his elbow and fingers easily. He is back to being his active self.  Yesterday, he went back to camp. They transferred him from All Sports camp to Senior camp, which has more variety and he will be able to participate in more of the activities, such as painting, computer, playing games etc.

He had a good first day, and even made a goal playing soccer. I smiled to myself, as I imagine the kids gave him a wide berth because of his cast, making it easier for him to make a goal. I just congratulated him and told him how much I loved him, and how happy I am that he is having such a great time. I finally feel back to normal myself.  

Welcome to My Blog

Dear Patients and Friends,

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. Now that we have officially launched our website, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and knowledge with you. I anticipate reading your comments, and hope you will make suggestions for future topics.

Happy Reading.

In Health & Wellness ,

Kecia Lowe