On Marijuana, Israel and Captain Kirk

If you’re in Israel these days, keep an eye out for Montel Williams. Then ask him to pass the bud.

Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, is in Israel learning about their welcoming attitude towards medical marijuana. He plans to use this research to bring the US to more liberal attitudes about using marijuana for treatment of pain, as he does.

For the enjoyment of our readers in one of the 16 US states plus DC that allow the use of medical marijuana, I bring you one of our favorite spacey Jews from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, William Shatner and his (you-can’t-tell-me-he-wasn’t-high-when-he-made-this-video) “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 

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The Importance of Core Strength

Many people equate the core with the abdominal muscles only. In reality, the core includes shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals. Strengthening the core allows the body to efficiently transfer force from the lower to the upper body and back again. A strong core will allow for optimal body alignment, better balance and less overall fatigue during workouts and everyday activities alike. The following core workout can be easily incorporated into your current routine. This circuit should take about 15 minutes to complete and should be done on non-consecutive days. Be sure to remain mindful, focusing energy on the core muscles being worked during each exercise.

1. Plank

  • Get into a full pushup position with your palms on the floor beneath your shoulders.
  • Hold here for 30 seconds, with your abs contracted and your arms and legs extended and your head aligned with your spine.
  • Do 3 sets of 30 second holds.  As you get stronger, try to hold planks for up to one minute.

2. Side Crunch 

  • Kneel on the floor and lean all the way over to your right side, placing your right palm on the floor.
  • Keeping your weight balanced, slowly extend your left leg and point your toes.
  • Place your left hand behind your head, pointing your elbow toward the ceiling.
  • Next, slowly lift your leg to hip height as you extend your arm above your leg, with your palm facing forward.
  • Look out over your hand while bringing the left side of your rib cage toward your hip.
  • Lower to your starting position and repeat 6 to 8 times.
  • Do two sets of 6 to 8 reps, and then switch sides.

3. Squat Thrust

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height.
  • Begin by squatting down, bending your knees 90 degrees, and twisting your upper body to the left.
  • Now come up and repeat the exercise to the right.
  • Keep your weight in your heels and don’t allow your knees to jut forward away from your toes.
  • Keep your knees facing forward as your chest and shoulders move side to side.

4. Opposite Arm and Leg Raise

  • Begin on all fours, aligning your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
  • Raise your left arm to shoulder height and your left leg to hip height.
  • Hold for 2 counts, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heels.
  • Repeat this exercise on the opposite side.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps, alternating sides.
  • For a bigger challenge, touch your opposite elbow to your knee as you pull your arm and leg in.

5. Single Leg Stretch

  • Lie back in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Lift your head and shoulders and curl your chin in toward your chest.
  • Inhale as you draw your left knee in toward your chest, placing your left hand on your ankle and your right hand on your knee.
  • Lift your right leg about 45 degrees off the floor.
  • Switch legs, extending your left leg while hugging your right leg to your chest.
  • Switch hand positions each time your switch legs, placing your right hand on your right ankle and your left hand on your right knee.
  • Do between 5 and 10 reps for each side.

Have you ever lost?

Luke?Have you ever lost something or someone that wasn’t really yours to begin with? It kind of aches and leaves a hole and you’re really not sure why.

August 30, I gave what people call “the gift of life,” through my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC). I was excited that my cells could help fight someone else’s disease.

I found out this morning that Luke and I lost the fight.

Be the Match/National Bone Marrow Registry will not give you the name of your recipient until one year after the donation, but I needed a name. To be more personable and to make the situation more realistic for me, I began calling my recipient Luke (for the Leukemia that possessed him), to make him a person. Naming him made it much easier to fight for Luke and to give him my PBSC.

I understand the need for anonymity but it hurts to know that I can’t contact his family, send them a condolence card by name, or even learn the town where they live.

Do I have a right to grieve? It is a shame that this Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) could not have been a new beginning for Luke, this stranger in my life.

Still, it was still worth it and I would do it all over again.

If you aren’t a part of the National Marrow Donor Program, you should be. It’s easy to register, and saves thousands* of lives each year. I wish Luke had been one of them.

(And if you don’t feel comfortable joining the registry, join us to donate blood on October 27. I’ll be there.)

 

Read the whole story here:
How I Became a Stem Cell Donor
How I Became a Stem Cell Donor (part two)
Soon to Be Stem Cell Donor

It’s a New Year, Volunteer
!

*They currently need twice the donors they get. 10,000 people are on the bone marrow waitlist, and only 5,000 ever get the transplant.

Don’t Think “Diet and Long Workouts” – Think “Lifestyle Change”

Don't let this happen to youWe’ve all been there, trying the quick-fix diet plans and workouts.  We’ve tried them all – low-fat to low-carb to low-cal.  We’ve tried the “we are going to do cardio every day this week!” –  running from indoor cycle to Pilates and yoga to body sculpt. By day three we realize, UGH! – we can’t even move a muscle in our aching bodies.

This is crazy and we have not even lost a pound.

With little or no satisfaction, we are back on the couch with the remote in one hand, our favorite junk food snack in the other and lots of Advil, swearing that there has got to be an easier way.   

As a personal trainer and fitness instructor for twenty years and someone who has struggled with personal weight gain and loss issues since age five, I am able to relate to the many of the same issues as my personal training clients   Unlike most kids who have their distinct likes and dislikes of certain foods, I can honestly say there were very few foods I didn’t like… I have travelled up and down and back again on the very same path as my clients.   I was always the “healthy kid.”

Through many years of trial and lots of errors, I have figured out what works for me- but that does not necessarily mean it may work for another.  We all have different body compositions, likes and dislikes, and I have found success in making healthy lifestyle changes comes without much effort –they are just part of my every day. There really is not one lifestyle change fits all.  Even working out five times a week does not mean I do not need to watch what I eat carefully.

About two years ago, I started by making small significant changes to my diet, and not overnight, but slowly. I wanted to lose 15 lbs. as I felt my wardrobe was fitting a bit snug in all the wrong places and buying another wardrobe was just not going to be an option.  I started with eating a small healthy breakfast every morning.  But I ate food I liked.

Then, after a healthy breakfast was part of my normal routine, I started to eat both a healthy breakfast and lunch. Before long, this lifestyle change became part of my every day.  You need to do what works best for you –a lifestyle change as part of your every day life, not a crash workout binge– that will keep you healthy and motivated, at least most days.  When it comes to lifestyle change, it is all about you. 

As a personal trainer, when I start to work with a new client, we never discuss the word “diet;” we discuss lifestyle changes that are easy and do not take much effort.  If the changes you make are not easy, there is no way you are going to keep them up and eventually, most of us fall back into our old patterns.  Your diet should be balanced and healthy most days, but is definitely okay to splurge on occasion. 

Start with small steps and before you know it, the change is part of your lifestyle.  When you get up today, take a 10-minute walk, or instead of skipping breakfast, eat a small meal consisting of healthy carbs, protein, and a little fat.  Try it for a week.  When that step works for you without effort, it is time to make another small change: a 20-minute walk or a eating both a healthy breakfast and lunch. 

There’s one basic fact that can’t be denied: we are creatures of habit. To make health-conscious changes, the changes have to fit in with our habits. Quick fixes don’t exist for long-term health.

Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian

By Kristen Gardner, Wellness Director

As summer comes to an end and the weather starts to cool, I start to see more members coming into the fitness center, and they are looking for healthy nutrition ideas.  It’s finally starting to cool down, so I don’t mind turning on the oven.  I love this healthy late summer vegetable tian (pronounced tee-ahn), which originated in Provence and references the shallow earthenware casserole as well as the food it contains.

Farmers’ markets around the city are abundant with many different varieties of succulent squash, sweet onions, juicy heirloom tomatoes and earthy potatoes. It can be served as a gorgeous vegetarian main course with a nice salad of market greens and a crusty French baguette, or as a side dish to meat or fish.

This nutrient-dense tian contains many richly colored vegetables, which serve as a great source of carotenes that protect the body from cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. These tasty vegetables also provide a healthy dose of potassium and vitamin C.  So, enjoy this delicious recipe – guilt free!

Roasted Summer Vegetable Tian

2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes
Sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with sea salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned. Enjoy.

(from For The Love of Cooking)

Cherry Blossoms and Jewish Advocacy

With the Cherry Blossom Festival commencing and the flowers out in full force, it’s no longer doubtful (despite the recent weather) that Spring is officially here. Author Rob Sachs posted an article, “An Afternoon of Cherry Blossoms and Swastikas,” on The Huffington Post about his unique experience at the annual festival this past weekend.

He discusses his weekend jaunt through the Tidal Basin and then, unexpectedly, into the adjacent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sachs juxtaposes the joyful nature of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to the pain and suffering on display within the neighboring museum and draws a comparison to the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass; he attributes this tradition, as do many, to the call from the Jewish community to remember the pain of the past even in the most joyous moments of our lives.

To that end, springtime – for Jews – is all about celebration and juxtaposition.

During Purim, for example, we are literally commanded to eat, drink, and throw raucous parties, while simultaneously crying out the name of our enemies and exterminators over and over until we’re numb to the sound.

Likewise, Passover, which is right around the corner, requires us to eat and drink like Kings and Queens. However, we still must dip our greens in the tears of our ancestors and spread the bitter pain of the Jews of yesteryear all over our matzot.

While these are the traditions many of us grew up with, maybe it’s time to consider adding some new traditions to our beloved springtime regiment of Food with Reflection. Bad things happened in the past, and it’s important to remember them, nevertheless it’s also important to reflect and act upon the struggles our communities face today.

There’s no better time than Spring – the season of renewal and hope – to get involved.

This April, for example, consider coming out to volunteer with the DCJCC’s Spring into Action program on April 10th (or other new volunteer opportunities). This annual event raises awareness about local environmental issues while providing opportunities for the community to engage with each other and work hand-in-hand towards a solution.

This year, our 2011 theme is around urban agriculture, community gardening, and park restoration. With oil prices, obesity rates, and unemployment all on the rise, it’s important to remember that our food system isn’t just about food; the way we grow our food impacts the environment, our health, and the economic and employment stability of our communities.

Local and sustainable agriculture is a great source of fair employment, healthy food, and community-building throughout the greater Washington DC area – it’s a great chance to meet some local farmers, advocates, and other families in your own neighborhoods. And bring the kids! This year, Spring into Action falls at the same time as Earth Day and Global Youth Action Day, to get all ages involved in sewing some seeds of change.

If you’re looking for a new, conscientious twist on Passover, also consider heading over to the National Rainbow Seder with DCJCC’s GLOE, or the Labor Seder with Jews United for Justice. Both of these seders are fun, meaningful ways to explore some of the most important social issues of our time – this year focusing on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ international community, and the struggle to find – and keep – good jobs.

(And there’s nothing like Jewish guilt and copious amounts of food to drive a movement, so don’t wait to jump on board: both of these events tend to sell out every year.)

At the end of Sachs’s article, he pondered that maybe his detour into the museum wasn’t so random after all; as Jews, we are inexplicably tied to a history of people that have sought justice for themselves and their communities for millennia.

No matter what your favorite part of Springtime is – the eating, the socializing, or the reflecting – take a break from the normal routine and make this holiday intentional by exploring not just the issues of the past, but those pertinent to our communities today.

And don’t forget to stop and smell the blossoms! Spring is as fleeting as it is special. Take advantage of it.

By the DCJCC’s Behrend Builders coordinator, Michal Rosenoer. Contact her with comments, concerns, or for more information at behrendbuilders@washingtondcjcc.org.

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