Posted in Thinking

Comfort for Hospital Patients

On Fridays I’ve been doing book reviews and author interviews, but I’ve not had time to read recently, so I don’t have any for today. Look for #FridayReads to return next week, I hope …

A friend recently emailed me saying, “Since you spent a long time in the hospital I was wondering what you suggest I put in a goodie bag for a friend who will be in the hospital for a few days following a surgery?”

I thought I’d share the list with you. Hospital comfort baskets shouldn’t be too large, smaller is better, because space to set them can be limited. A small basket, decorative box or purse (as shown in the picture) is better than a gift bag, because the patient can see what is in it without digging through it. Plus gift bags fall over too easily.

Chapstick – While in the hospital, my lips were always dry … maybe it was air, maybe the meds I was on, but either way I always needed some type of moisturizing lip balm.

Breath mints – To counter-act the dry mouth and bad breath due to the meds.

Gum – Any gum is good, but bubble gum wins! Because it gives the patient something to do during times of boredom. Can they still blow a bubble as big as they did as a kid? (Not that I tried this …)

Soft tissues – The hospital ones are coarse.

Nail file - This one might only be for the females, but there’s nothing like a broken, jagged nail to add more annoyance to an already tough situation.

Fuzzy socks – Warm feet helps one deal with being in the hospital better.

Magazines - Easy light reading. Reader’s Digest is good because it has short stories and jokes … and sometimes when life sucks, it helps to laugh.

A soft blanket – The hospital ones can be coarse.

Favorite snack* – For me, it would be combos (the cracker kind with cheddar cheese)

Fresh fruit – I’ll never forget the fresh, sweet peaches, my stranger-turned-friend Brenda (who I introduce to the world in Because I Can) brought me.

Homemade cookies – Comfort food!

Chocolate – Dove dark chocolate for me.

*Depending on the reason for the hospital stay, food items might not be appropriate. 
If you’ve spent time in the hospital—what have I missed?


Posted in Body

Energy Drink Info – thanks to Susan Leake

Recently there’s been an avalanche of energy drinks (Red Bull, Full Throttle, Monster Energy, Rockstar, MakeYourLazyAssFeelBetter* and more) on the market … and the commercials for them could almost make one wonder how we survived without them.

'Energy drinks' photo (c) 2009, Simon - license:
I’ve heard reports from others, including my sons, about the ‘amazing’ energy they have after drinking them. But I’ve been leery of them. I can’t help but remember the cliche we all love to hate … if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

I’ve dabbled into researching some of them, but have never taken the time to throughly study them. And now thankfully someone else has … Susan Leake has a great piece about energy drinks at No Meat Athlete

The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks

Here are just a few of the things she says about them:

  • they are not regulated under any FDA standards.
  • many of the ingredients have not been deemed safe for public consumption.
  • lack of reputable information on some other ingredients.

Susan writes about those points and more. She has compiling information, research and good common sense to back up her claims. She suggests the novel idea of exercising, getting  enough sleep and eating well as ways to gain energy instead of aiming for a quick fix. (imagine that!)

Professional Triathlete Brendan Brazier sees little value in energy drinks. He says,

“Obtaining energy by way of stimulation is like shopping with a credit card. You get something you desire now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay eventually. That bill will come.”

Other than making the drink companies rich, there’s no reason to drink them. I’m not saying drinking one every now and then will hurt you. In the spirit of full disclosure … diet sodas aren’t good for you either, but every now and then when I have a piece of pizza, I ‘need’ a diet coke.

I justify it because I have so few and I have them so far apart that I assume my system has time to clean out all the crap before I consume more. (and one of these days I will drink my last one, I think I can, I think I can… )

Go read Susan’s article and I think you’ll realize consuming energy drinks regularly could have results you don’t want … both for your health and your wallet.


Do you drink energy drinks? Why or why not?
And know any healthy alternatives to energy drinks?
*this may or may not be a name I invented for an energy drink 
Posted in Mind

Doing things so I can tell others I did — Why?

About a year after I was injured, I was at a lighthouse with some friends and I was debating whether or not I could climb the 200+ steps to the top. I wanted to do it. But I wasn’t sure if my legs and pelvis were strong enough. I didn’t want to exhaust or hurt myself and ruin the rest of our weekend at the beach.

'The Stairs' photo (c) 2010, Randy Pertiet - license:

Some encouraged me to try it, others thought it might be too much for me. I was trying to think through how I feel when I do one or two flights of stairs, so I could make a wise decision about whether or not my body was ready for that workout.

Someone encouraged me to do it by saying, “Go for it, then you can tell others you did it.”

That would have been almost the last reason on earth for me to climb those steps. I wanted to do it for the experience of doing it. To feel the strength (hopefully) in my legs with each step. To reach the top. To see the view and feel the ocean air. To climb back down. To have a tired, but accomplished feeling.

Doing it simply so I could tell others … why? As much as I love people, is the opinion of others or the impression I give to others more important than my own experience? Never! That means I’d be living my life based on the opinions of others and that seems totally exhausting. Sure if I did it, I would tell others about it, but that wouldn’t be my reason for doing it.

I hear runners discussing whether or not they want to run a full marathon (26.2 miles). Some say they do, so they can say they did it. I have a feeling those people would have a bad marathon experience, because they aren’t doing it for the experience, they are doing it to impress others.

There is nothing like doing something for the sheer experience of doing it. To feel the moment. To experience the experience. 

This makes me wonder about the bucket lists some people have. Are the items on their lists things they really want to do or simply things they want to tell others they did?

One problem with doing things to impress others is that you aren’t living in the present moment, so you won’t enjoy the experience to the fullest. You are living in the future … in that future moment when you will be telling someone what you did. That alone will take away some of the joy of the experience.

It’s not only physical challenges that should be experienced for yourself, rather than for the impressions you want to give … it’s places you go. Books you read. Vacations. Cars. Houses.

I’m not saying you never do things for the sake of others. Maybe it’s something they’ve dreamed of doing and they want someone to do it with them. Go for it … even if it’s not an experience you feel the need to have. You will make someone else’s day and that’s a great experience to have.

As for that lighthouse climb … I did it that day. Slowly and carefully, but I did it. And I loved every moment of it. The journey to the top, being at the top and the climb down. I’m happy to tell you about it … but sorry, you weren’t the reason I did it.


Do you do things so you can say you did them? Or do you do them for the experience of doing them?

Review of Growing Up Amish and an Interview with Ira Wagler

Growing Up Amish is an excellent book … with great writing and a story that captures the reader. There’s adventure, struggle, joy and sadness in the book as Ira Wagler continually searches for truth, which brings him the freedom and peace he desires.

From Amazon: This memoir offers a nuanced account from a man who straddled both Amish and “English” (non-Amish) worlds. Wagler recounts his Amish upbringing, from dating conventions and worship services to local gossip and schoolyard bullies. The simplicity of everyday life may seem quaint on the surface. Yet Wagler bravely goes on to expose pervasive dissatisfaction among both youth and adult Amish living in what he characterizes as a stifling, formulaic world. Such unspoken displeasure sparked a cycle of coming and going for the author, who repeatedly crept away from his community only to return, if reluctantly, for its familiarity. It was a “paradox that would haunt me for almost ten years: the tug-of-war between two worlds.” His tale of restlessness looks acutely at the clash of family ties with love of freedom.

‘Outsiders’ to the Amish world often wonder what it’s like to live as an Amish person … and most have a glamorous view of it, which too many other books promote. The reality is sheltered cultures are generally only glamorous to outsiders looking in.

I did not grow up Amish, but I grew up traditional strict Mennonite … some of the rules are different, but the two cultures have similarities. I’ve been frustrated with the idealistic view that is painted of these cultures, which is why I like Growing Up Amish. Ira does an excellent job describing the frustrations within that world, while not being malicious about it. He states the facts of his life in a way that I appreciate and according to my friend (an ‘outsider’), makes them understandable to readers that aren’t familiar with that world.

Ira lives in my area and thanks to our mutual friend Shawn, I had the privilege of meeting him at a picnic a few weeks ago. We enjoyed an evening of chatting about leaving the boxes of our childhoods, writing and having books published. I had a few questions for him which he answers below.


Janet: In Growing Up Amish … the reader learns about your ten-year struggle in deciding whether or not to stay Amish. During those years, you did join the Amish church for a time. When you left, you were shunned (excommunicated) … are you still shunned today?

Ira: For a brief period of time, maybe a year, I was excommunicated from the Amish church in Bloomfield, Iowa after I fled back out into the “world.” The shunning consisted mostly of not eating at the same table. And I was restricted from socializing with my peers, mostly.

I am not shunned today, because I left the Amish church for the final time as a member in the Goshen, Indiana community. There, they were much more progressive (unlike Lancaster County, where I reside today) and they honored my decision to join a Mennonite church, a church they considered biblical. It was almost like a crap shoot. Depends on the place of departure, whether or not you are excommunicated.

And it has a LOT of ramifications. It affects relationships and how one is viewed, in many communities. I can’t be thankful enough that I’m not excommunicated today, because that could be used as one big stick that some (not all) Amish people might use to discredit me.

Janet: And if so, how does that affect your relationship with your family?

Ira: Today, I am close to all my siblings. Some are Amish, some are plain Mennonite, or Beachy Amish. All of us have mellowed with the passing of time, and we are all glad to see each other when we get together.


Janet: Love reading about your teenage friends, the “gang of six”. What happened to them … are they still Amish and are you still friends?

Of the six, only one remains Amish. In Bloomfield, Mervin Gingerich, the bishop’s son, married and settled in the church. Today, he is an Amish preacher. I have kept in contact with Marvin Yutzy (my brother-in-law), and Rudy Yutzy. During my book signing in Daviess County, Indiana in mid-August, Vern Herschberger drove up from his home in Tennessee. We had not seen each other in more than 30 years. It was a joyful reunion, made possible by the book. That’s wild stuff, and I am grateful.


Janet: Memoirs are tough to write because they involve people who are still living … what has the reaction been from family and friends mentioned in the book?

I have been amazed at how strongly my siblings support me. Sure, there may be a few issues, a few scenes some of them would rather have seen excluded. But overall, their support has been very strong. I’m sure they hear it, in some of their communities, the negative comments on how I shouldn’t have written the book. But they remain firmly loyal, and we are all close.

My friends in general have had the same reaction. Nothing but support and encouragement. And maybe a bit of amazement at how well the book is doing out there. Again, I can’t be thankful enough for all of it; the support and the success of the book.


Janet: Now that your book is out … is there anything else you wish you would have said in it?

You know, that is a great question. I have read and reread the book. Forward, backward, upside down, whatever. And there are maybe half a dozen spots where I would change some of the wording. Not much, though. There are a few scenes that didn’t make it, but Tyndale did a fantastic job of cutting and fusing what remained. The Tyndale people were (and are) a real class act. All of them, or at least all of those with whom I worked.

So, to answer your question: No.


Are you working on any new projects … books or other writing projects?

Mostly just tinkering with a few ideas, some basic outlining. And writing and posting now and then on my blog at I have been very busy, working full time at my job, and devoting most of my spare time to promoting the book, traveling for book signings, and so forth. This whole experience has been intense and very gratifying. And, of course, I’d love to be published again. But I guess the market will decide that.


Ira Wagler was born in the small Old Order Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario. At 17, frustrated by the rules and restrictions of Amish life, Ira got up at 2 am, left a note under his pillow, packed his duffel bag and left. Over the course of the next 5 years, Ira would leave and return home numerous times … at age 26, Ira left the Amish for good.


If you prefer to view the Amish culture as simplistic and perfect … you might not want to read this book. But if you want to read about one man’s journey and gain an honest view of that world, of the frustrations and tensions that can be present, especially when someone questions the norm …

get a copy of Growing Up Amish here


Any questions about the Amish or other things for Ira?
If you are familiar with the Amish culture or if you aren’t … how do you view it?

Posted in Mind,

How Does a Religion Begin?

Most of us don’t like religion … we might like the idea behind religion, which is worshiping God as we understand him, but as a general rule, we aren’t fond of religion for the sake of religion. Religion can be too divisive, too rigid and people who adopt extreme religious ideas and practices have been causing serious problems for centuries.

Since I was a child, I’ve wondered about the connection between humanity and a divine being. So off and on over the past twenty years, I’ve researched various religions, including many ‘flavors’ of Christianity. I’ve been noticing a pattern that bothers me. (Actually I notice many things that bother me, but this is only a blog post, not a book.)

This pattern is … throughout history as life is happening (sometimes smoothly, sometimes not) someone becomes restless or dissatisfied with the status quo as far as religion goes. Then through a nudging, a word, dreams or stones they receive a ‘revelation’. They feel compelled to share what they received. They begin sharing their thoughts as beliefs. They gather a few followers. Soon a church or movement starts based on it.


With time they (or their followers) expound and clarify their beliefs and put them into doctrinal form to make sure these beliefs are firmly held. To enforce the beliefs, rules have to be made, especially because religions tend to view people as bad, not good. As the church or movement grows, the rules/traditions naturally grow and eventually a full-fledged religion is born.

Life moves on … the beliefs/rules are firmly held and sadly many times enforced with everything ranging from a verbal shaming to death (in the name of God, of course) Until … a decade, a century or a millennium later someone else comes along and is dissatisfied with that status quo. A restlessness emerges, a message is received and the cycle repeats itself.

It seems to me that whenever someone (or some group) solidly defines their beliefs, it inevitably turns into a religion.

I’ve been on a spiritual journey of sorts over the past few years and recently I was trying to define what my beliefs now are. I felt like I needed to have clarity, definitions … or at least some solid ideas. But since processing how religions seem to be formed, I’ve been wondering if it’s wise to have solidly defined religious beliefs. Maybe beliefs need to be in constant renewal to have any value … to ourselves and others.

Just like it isn’t healthy for a body to be motionless, maybe our spirits shouldn’t be motionless either.

Maybe we should always be willing to learn more about the connection between humanity and the divine … even looking beyond our own sacred texts. Could being willing to continually learn help us not turn our beliefs into a religion, which we then worship instead of the God we set out to worship?

In my book Because I Can I wrote … One thing that confuses me is that while Jesus was here, he drastically changed the way things had been done for the previous centuries. Yet, now Christians try to live Biblically, meaning they study the Bible and make rules about how to live as the Christians did back then. But when Jesus was here that was the very thing he told people not to do. He encouraged them to forget the religious ways and instead to look around themselves and interact with the rest of humanity in a loving way.

I’d prefer to put more energy into treating others in a kind, loving way then in following a religion, so now I’m wondering if I really need to have clearly defined beliefs.


So I’m curious … do you have solidly formed religious beliefs? And if so, how do you avoid turning them into a religion?
And how does having  solidly formed beliefs benefit or hurt you? Or benefit or hurt others around you?