The truth about cats and dogs

Trevor the dog might get a little miffed that I scooped him on this one, but I was only able to do get ahead of him because of my opposable thumbs, I’m a bit more adept at the computer than he is I’m sure.

While there are dog people and cat people and I respect them both, however, I’ve always thought dogs were smarter. There, I said it. I love dogs because of how they enhance our lives. I used to tell my cat lovin’ friend, “Look at all the things dogs can do, they search and rescue, they help people see and hear. What do cats do?

“Cats are smart enough not to get put to work.” My friend would retort.

My answer to that was to quote Muriel Barbery who wrote, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” She wrote, “… Cats are fat windbags who eat designer kibble and have no interesting interaction with human beings. The only purpose of cats is that they constitute mobile decorative objects…” No, I don’t mean that, because deep down I’m a cat lover, it’s just that I’m highly allergic and that Muriel Barbery quote is always good for a chuckle.

According to a study by Oxford University, “Over millions of years dogs have developed bigger brains than cats because highly social species of mammals need more brain power than solitary animals.” Other animals that have developed larger brains are monkeys, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The reasoning being is that the more social an animal is, the larger their brain is, relative to body size of course. A larger brain capacity is needed because social animals need to think more.

So there you have it, the truth about cats and dogs. I would suppose that’s why Mama got Trevor to write the column and Mr.Walter Croncat is just window decoration.

– Aunt B

Does Religion Make You Happy?

The title of Dr. Michelle Golland’s blog “Religion Actually Makes You Happier?!” caught my attention. With all of the rules and rituals that go with big box religion, I was prepared to give it a big Whitney Houston style “h*ll to the naw!” However, knowing that our mental well being impacts our physical well being, I pose this question to you. Does religion make you happier?

With my own religious background in Fundamentalism and Catholicism, I’ve had enough guilt and shame to last me a lifetime. The rules of the Evangelical church I belonged to were many:

  • No wearing of men’s clothing, meaning that women and girls could not wear pants
  • No listening to secular music
  • No playing of card games (gambling)
  • No playing games that involved dice (gambling, yes that meant no Monopoly for me)
  • No dancing (I’m a natural born dancer, this one killed me)

We lived by the maxim, ‘the Bible said it, I believe it, and that settles it’. Not a lot of wiggle room there and for a woman that dislikes boxes, this one was small and tight.

And I have to admit, those were some of the happiest times of my life.

Dr. Golland explains that, “Per the study, it’s not the doctrine of the religion that’s important; rather, the key to greater happiness is the social networks that these organizations provide for the individual and his or her family… As human beings, we crave meaning and connection. We desire to be understood by those around us and to feel close to others in our life.”

Indeed. My friends and I had uncontrollable fits of giggles in the choir stand. We went roller skating (in our skirts) and had lots of fun mimicking the pastor. The friendships I made lasted for years, even after I left that particular brand of religion. While there I felt a part of something larger, and connected to others in the shared experience of ritual and rules.

As the New Year opens wide before us, let’s think about what makes us happy. Let’s think about connecting to people again, face to face, breaking bread, over music, or a puzzle or a game. And if it is religion that makes you happy then by all means, connect and be happy.

– Aunt B

From Ganja Yoga to Get-It-Girl Fitness – Exercise Trends We Tried in 2010

It’s that time of the year again, when health sites roll out the resolution wagon and shake our fingers in front of your face while making declarations about the importance of healthy eating and getting your hindquarters out of 1st gear. That’s when you pull out the usual resolutions about working out and losing weight and place them inside the wagon. According to statistics, most of you will pull that resolution wagon around for about week, and then kick it to the curb, retrieving it only when a new fitness fad trends up.

I say to that, me too.

Here are some of the fitness fads from 2010. I didn’t try all of them, but boy did they seem interesting.

Ganja Yoga:Yoga and marijuana, together?” Ms. Pillay says, “it’s like putting salt on your food. It’s just a little enhancement.” So they say. Thankfully the yoga fad doesn’t seem to be going away; yoga has many great benefits for both mind and body. It morphed in interesting ways. Popular of late are Hot Yoga, Hip-Hop Yoga, Circus Yoga and Ganja Yoga. Yeah, puff puff, pass… and stretch.

Boot Camp Workouts: This workout remains a favorite amongst those that like to experience pleasure and pain of group exercise. I didn’t try this one, but a friend did and she still runs a couple of miles everyday.

Wii Fit: Okay I thought this was a good idea for the tween and I. Gamer fitness has been selling well thanks to tie-ins from popular TV shows like Biggest Loser and the very sexy Jillian Michaels. What I have to say that while Wii Tennis is fun, real tennis is better.

Dance Fitness: What I like about Zumba, Afro-Cuban and Hip Hop dance class is that it breaks you out of the “feel the burn” exercise ho hum. Perhaps made more popular by shows like DWTS or SYTYCD (Dancing With The Stars or So You Think You Can Dance) I have to say that Bristol Palin almost ruined this one for me. Watching her stomp around the dance floor as if she were born without knees was just painful.

Pole Dancing or Flirty Girl Fitness: Stripper chic has hit an all time high and I’m getting a bit tired of get-it-girl glamour and now fitness. This might be heating up the bedrooms, but strapping on 3-inch heels to workout doesn’t work for me.

Shape Ups: I got hooked into this one. Just a pair of shoes and a nice high butt is mine! Any pair of shoes and brisk walk will do the trick.

Okay, here’s what you came here for, get your hindquarters out of 1st gear and make good food choices! Live well friends and Happy New Year.

Aunt B

Aunt B on Philanthropy 101

It just occurred to me that some of you might not be givers. It’s not that you don’t want to give, perhaps you’re just unsure, doubtful that your gift will make a difference, or go to right people. I get that.

Within the past year, Mama has given away fruit trees at local Farmer’s Markets, a tree for everyone who friends her on Facebook and reusable grocery bags to those of you who made a pledge to help out BP with that devastatingly nasty oil spill. Mama is a dog lover too and will feature adoptable pets on this site and will collect and give blankets to local shelters. Yeah it’s a horn, it’s Mama’s and I’m tootin’ it.

Philanthropy is good. Giving feels good, better than receiving most of the time. Oprah challenged her readers to think about giving this way. If you are going to buy a $50 gift, use $25 towards a gift and donate the other $25 to a charity in that person’s name. Well, yes I invoked Oprah, but that’s because like Mama, giving is one of her favorite things.

So what if we were to try that this season? Here are some of my favorite places to give too, these are places that help women, families, animals and the planet. Mama approved, of course.

Kiva-means “unity” in Swahili and was founded in October 2005 by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley. Kiva allows lenders to microfinance entrepreneurs in developing countries. The money is paid back to you and you have the option of reinvesting.

Americare– with 99% of its funding going to programs, Americare provides help when disasters or violent conflict happens in the U.S. or abroad.

V-Day– V-day works to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

First Book– addresses literacy by providing books to children to keep. I like their tag line, “Don’t you remember your first book?”

Actors and Others for Animals – with 93% of its funding going towards programs, AOA subsidizes spaying and neutering and helps pet guardians living on low or fixed incomes care for their animals.

– Aunt B

Domestic Violence: A primer in three parts.

I would wonder when I walked the streets after a day at work, is he one? The one with the striped oxford shirt, or maybe the guy in the seersucker shirt and flip-flops. Is he an abuser? Does he hit his wife? Does he scream obscenities at her and tell her how stupid she is? The guy in the expensive car who smiles when I roll up beside him, is he one too? Does he grab his wife by the hair and force himself on her? Does he control all of the money? Does he tell her when to come and go, does he time it when she leaves the house or check the odometer on her car?

10 years as a 9-1-1 operator told me the answer to all of those questions is yes. Abusers are rich and poor and middle class or somewhere in between. One trait they all share is that the abuser usually come across as arrogant, however they actually feel very inadequate and want to remain in control. One thing I know for sure is that domestic violence happens in every strata of society. I’ve taken calls from the wives of celebrities and police officers. No race or socio-economic class is immune.

As a 9-1-1 operator, most of the calls I took that required the police involved domestic violence. And according to the American Bar Association (ABA):

  • Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
  • In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.

Those statistics are appalling.

What’s wrong with us? What do we need to do and say to our young boys so they don’t feel inadequate and powerless? What safeguards can we put in our educational system to let young me know that it is never okay to hit a woman?

Finally, men are not the only abusers. Coming up, women who abuse men and how to leave an abuser.

Chime in.

– Aunt B

Aunt B’s Health Bits- Can I get a wash and set and a blood pressure check?

I was strolling the Internet and saw an article about barbershops that offered blood pressure checks along with a haircut. Well how much sense does that make? A lot! It is one of the few places we show up regularly. Now wouldn’t that make a nice little extra, if beauty shops and barbershops offered blood pressure checks along with a shave or hair extensions, a blow dry and curl? It just somehow makes sense and it works.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked 17 barbershops and found that men who had their blood pressure checked when they went to get a haircut were “far more likely to see a doctor and get their blood pressure under control.” There were 17 shops that participated in the study. Eight of those shops distributed pamphlets. The other nine took things further and actually checked the blood pressure of their patrons and offered free services for those that came back with a prescription. Here’s where it gets good. At the end of the study more than half of those participating had their blood pressure under control. I would add this type of service can create stronger and more loyal customers. And customers that live longer too.

People visit the hairdresser or the barbershop every two to three weeks. Having a blood pressure screening with someone that you “visit” with that often will certainly keep the issue at the top of the list. And you will be encouraged by these same people to do something about it.

How innovative, how health conscious, what a great idea!

Source: Science Daily

– Aunt B

Aunt B’s Health Bit –TV Tots?

Pre-schoolers and Television

*According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) parents should allow no more than 2 hours of DVDs, computers and video games or television screen time for pre-school age children. While many parents to monitor screen time at home time, a recent article the Journal of Pediatrics, found that many children are exposed to screen time both at home and while at child care, with more than half exceeding the recommended daily amount.

In the United States a majority of children under the age of 5 spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parent. A University of Washington study that interviewed both parents and caregivers found that:

  • On average children were exposed to 4 hours of screen time each day, with 3.6 of those hours coming from home.
  • Children in home-based childcare spent 5.6 hours watching TV or videos at home and at childcare.
  • Children in day care centers fared better with an average screen time of 3.2 hours a day.
  • Children who did not attend childcare averaged 4.4 hours a day.
  • Children in the Head Start program watched an average of 4.2 hours a day with very little screen time happening at the center. Most of it happened at home.

Too much TV has been linked to speech delays, aggressiveness and obesity. Few states have regulations for child care settings around television viewing so it’s best to have a chat with your caregiver about what goes on when you drop little Sam or Emma off.

So parents, this wasn’t written to criticize your decisions around childcare or your parenting skills, this was written so that you will be informed and are able to advocate/speak up for your child. Sometimes what is easy isn’t always best, and sometimes, it is. You might just need that moment to take a breath. I know I did.

Love your children,

Aunt B

The Latest Buzz About Breasts – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Usually I’m annoyed by all the buzz over breasts. I mean really, our cups runneth over with all the attention to their fullness, tilt, and overall perkiness. My own breasts have seen better days. The plastic surgeons call it ptosis. I call it sag. No. I have no shame. It happens.

Sheyla Hershey really believes that bigger is better and pumped 1 gallon of silicone into her breasts, giving them the dubious distinctive bra size of 38KKK. It looks like one part of her body has traded places with the other. You tell me.

This isn’t about size or sag though, because this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, below are some of the latest research results about our mammary glands. Take a look at the good, the bad and of course, the ugly.

Here it is:

  • Nearly 74 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy were still alive five years after being diagnosed, compared to 55 percent of non-pregnant patients, according to researchers at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Source: U.S.News and World Report.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008 some 1,990 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among men and about 450 men will die from breast cancer in the United States.
  • Vigorous exercise of more than two hours per week reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in postmenopausal African-American women by 64 percent, compared to women of the same race who do not exercise, according to researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • The Mercy Medical Center Prevention and Research Center Team created an intervention program that consisted of relaxation techniques (i.e. deep breathing and guided imagery), optimization of nutrition and physical activity, introduction to restorative yoga techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy to help make positive lifestyle changes for survivors of breast cancer who experience fatigue.

So ladies and gentleman, remember to touch you tatas! Bring lumps, dimpling skin, or itchy areas to your doctor’s attention. See here for how to self-exam. And let’s not go pumping a gallon of silicone into those puppies either. Just sayin’.

– Aunt B

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