Posted in Myths

Monday Myth — Taste Zones on Our Tongues?

Myth: Our tongues have different zones where we taste different sensations like… bitter, sour, salty, and sweet.

For decades, we were taught this and shown this popular tongue map to reenforce the teaching. And because of that, many of us were sure we tasted certain flavors on certain areas of our tongue.

Oh the power of suggestion! Though I’m often a skeptic, I believed this tongue map theory for years.

This theory originated from a 1901 paper written by an otherwise fairly well respected Harvard psychologist Edwin G. Boring. It was a mistranslation from a German research paper that included data about the tongue which was taken out of context and the theory was born.

About 70 years later more research was finally done and the tongue map theory was proven to be false.

Fact: All taste sensations come from all areas of our tongue.

Here’s a short clip about one man’s thoughts about this theory…


Were you taught the tongue map theory? Did you believe it and taste the specified tastes at the defined areas?


An Interview with Joy Bennett

I did a Skype interview with the lovely Joy Bennett from Joy in the Journey this week. Thankfully I sat slightly different and my eyes didn’t have quite as much of a Lady Gaga look as they did in the other interview this week.

It was Joy’s first time recording a Skype interview, but she was a pro at it. We had a great conversation and she posted the video today. In it I answer her questions which range from…

What did you believe about God and pain and bad things as a child? Describe the Mennonite teaching on this to…

How much pain do you deal with on a daily basis now?

Clicking on the picture will take you to Joy’s site to view the video. When at her site, click around and read Joy’s story of learning how to live with difficult circumstances, including the death of her daughter three years ago.
I’m giving away a copy of Because I Can on Joy’s site. Leave a comment there for a chance to win!

My Lady Gaga Look

Lisa DeLay likes people, she likes ninjas and she likes to learn… so she’s combined all three into a cool Ninja Interview series. Well, it was a cool series until she added an interview with me to the lineup…  I think I made every mistake possible for a video interview.

Since this was my first Skype interview, I read tips and tricks about how to do one well… and apparently I promptly forgot all of it.

Lisa is cool, calm and collected, but I rambled instead of talking in short soundbites… short sentences make for a better video interview and a better spot on The Today Show (a girl can dream, can’t she?) 

I was in my living room which has a big window, because I thought the light would be good, but I didn’t realize it would cause a glare on my glasses at times. Which made the eye shadow I had on look like I was trying out a Lady Gaga look.

With her super Ninja skills, Lisa diced, sliced and spliced together this 6-minute video from our half-hour conversation.



Ugh… I need to listen to the experts better!


To redeem myself I want to give a copy of Because I Can away… you know, like paying a penalty for mistakes made.

So ask a question, leave a comment or simply say “Hi” before Saturday 1/28/12 at 10AM and you will be entered to win.   
Check out more of Lisa’s Ninja Interviews with cool people that don’t have Lady Gaga eyes. 
UPDATE: choose #4 as the winner. Amanda Blank was the 4th commenter. Congratulations Amanda!
Posted in Body,

Do You have to Puke, Faint or Die to be Healthy?

I’m a big believer in pushing myself. In stretching myself out of my comfort zone. In doing something new or different that forces me out of the familiar. For my body, mind and soul.

That is how I grow and learn… and when I feel truly alive. 

Having said that I’m not about pain. Especially physical pain that could cause more damage than good if we aren’t careful. Pain is our body’s way of talking to us and we need to listen to it.

Which is why I don’t like sayings about ignoring pain. At the least, they are stupid and taken to an extreme, they are dangerous and a big reason why there are so many sports injuries.

No pain, no gain.
Pain is weakness leaving the body. 
Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going.


Yes, I’m taking on Jillian Michaels. I like that she encourages people to live healthy lifestyles, but you don’t have to puke, faint or die to do it.

But before you get the wrong idea. Being healthy does not mean you can sit on the couch, eat brownies and browse Pinterest laughing at fitness boards that include sayings about pain.

Being healthy does involve educating yourself, planning healthy meals and making yourself exercise even when you don’t feel like it. And at times, that exercise will make you tired, sore and achy.

But tired, sore and achy is very different from puking, fainting and dying. 

I think the no pain, no gain theory is an example of the pendulum swinging too far to the other side. Because our minds can talk us out of exercise and because our country has an obesity problem, many well-meaning fitness voices try to fix it by telling us to ignore pain.

I think treating our bodies with care is more effective. And care means we do push ourselves, but not too an extreme. And I’ll be the first to admit it can be tough to find that line. A huge key is being aware of our body and of our mental state.

Most of the time, it’s our mind, not our body, that decides whether or not we’re going to exercise. So the only pain you should push through is the pain between your ears. Our mind prefers to take the easy route, so it will try to talk us out of exercising or have us quit before we need to. Educating ourselves on the dangers of not taking care of our bodies should give us strength to override our lazy-arsh minds.

Another key is learning to know the difference between pain and discomfort.

Fact: Most pain (or feeling dizzy) warrants quitting… most discomfort does not. 

So when you want to stay on the couch or quit early, ask yourself these questions…

Does my body hurt?
Is it discomfort or pain? (be honest with yourself!)

If pain, is it the type of pain that could cause injury?
If you know the answer is yes… stop.

If unsure… think! Think about the discomfort/pain. Massage the area. Do a few stretches.  Think about the discomfort/pain objectively. If you could feel the same discomfort/pain in someone else’s body… would you tell them to continue exercising or to stop?

My journey from not knowing if I would ever walk again to running marathons involved countless conversations like that. Sometimes I quit and gave my body a day or two of rest. But more times than not, I continued… because I knew the discomfort I was having would make me stronger.

Because of all my injuries, I do live with some pain/discomfort, so I’m constantly having to find that edge of doing what I can, with what I have to be healthy, but not hurting myself.

If I can find that edge, you can too… the more you do it, the better you will become at it.

Remember: Most pain (or dizziness) warrants quitting… most discomfort does not!


Do you know the difference between pain and discomfort? If so, how did you learn it?
Also will you defend me if Jillian tries to beat me up for challenging her?
Posted in Thinking

Not by Their Religion, but by the Content of Their Character

Reading quotes and stories about or by Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday made me grateful again for what he tirelessly lived for and unfortunately died for.

Freedom and equality for everyone. 

I love this picture of the flesh-colored crayons that is circulating on Facebook. I think Crayola needs to consider increasing the number of crayons in each box. (remember the thrill of a box of 74 crayons!)

I’m not naive enough to think racism never happens, but I’m so thankful to live in a time when the color of someone’s skin should not affect anything they do or want to do.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always believed everyone is equal, but unfortunately I had some negative influences in my life. And what we hear and see, especially as a child, can influence us, so I went through a time as a young adult when I tried to shred any false impressions I had been given.

‎”Not by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.”


There is another issue facing us today. Should someone’s religion affect what they can or cannot do… or how they are treated?

Religion is a confusing concept for me… I question why and how religions form and why people follow the religions they do. But yet, I believe that one principal America was founded on is freedom of religion. To me that means anyone and everyone should be able to practice whatever religion they choose, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

In this video, the clerk and the woman wanting to buy an apple strudel are actors hired by ABC for this show… but the other people in the bakery do not know that, so I can only assume their reaction is how they feel.


Here’s the summary of the actions of the bystanders in the video…
6 people defended the clerk,
13 people came to the aid of the woman and
22 people stood passively by saying and doing nothing.

The woman was kind and gracious. She had money to pay for her purchase, yet it appears that the majority viewed her… by her religion, not but by the content of her character.


What do you think your reaction would be if you saw anything like this happening? 
Posted in Health

Lessons from the Chilly Cheeks Trail Run

Give me a beach. Sunshine. And balmy weather.

I could happily live the rest of my life never feeling temperatures below 50F again.

But yet yesterday I joined about six-hundred other (crazy) people in doing a trail run when temps were around 20F, with a real-feel of 15F.


Because I love being outdoors and since I live in Pennsylvania where we have about twenty months of brutal winter weather (the calendar might say three months, but I swear it’s much longer) I have no choice but to be outdoors in the cold sometimes.

I’ve been dreaming of moving south for years. We had planned to in 2004 when we finish our trip around the country, but the accident and my injuries changed our plans. And being here with family and friends was the best place to be as I recovered.

But the south continues to call… so over the next year or two as my boys finish college, we plan to pack the uHaul and kiss winter good-bye. But until then, I’m here and I’m going to embrace each day. Life is too precious to do anything less.

Making the most of each day

Life is too short to wait until someday… until perfect conditions… until the planets align… until blah, blah, blah. Instead I do what I can, with what I have, where I am.

I’ve been hearing about this crazy trail run called Chilly Cheeks since it started six years ago. Pretzel City Sports manages the run and they advertise it as a “…rustic trail run touring the mountain overlooking the Pretzel Capital of the world (Reading, PA). It has rocks & roots, dirt & debris, maybe snow & ice and more rises and falls than most 401k plans in the past 3 years. It is 7+ miles that will make you see stars (REAL stars, not people like Jessica Simpson, Rob Kardashian or anyone who has ever appeared on Celebrity Rehab).”  

Yes, I wanted to tackle that! And this was the year, because two crazy running friends also decided they wanted to tackle it for the first time.

Pre-race... Tabatha, Bev and I.

Trust the process

Deciding to tackle it did not take away my fear of how I would handle the cold and the hills. While life can throw us curves (can it ever!) I have learned that I can trust the process of many things in life if I prepare properly, if I continue taking steps forward, if I do what I need to do, etc.


Don’t reinvent the wheel

I’ve run many miles in my lifetime, but not as many as the folks at Runner’s World, so I use their wisdom for many things. In this case, I checked out their What Should I Wear tool. While I don’t always follow it exactly, it gives me a good idea what to wear in various temps.


Don’t be stupid, remember the basics.

Basic foundational principles are basic foundational principles for a reason… without them, nothing happens. No matter how many runs I do… the basics of drinking enough water, eating well, getting enough sleep and stretching still apply, especially the day before.


Be flexible

Process, plan, prepare… but then hold it all lightly. Go with the flow of the situation. Based on our previous runs, we had assumed we’d finish this run in less than two hours, but that was before we knew the details of the situation.

Some of the run wasn’t even on trails—seriously, you made your own trail! The hills were bigger and longer and meaner than we had imagined them to be. I always knew PA has a lot of rocks, but I didn’t know a zillion of them were on the hills around Reading.



Recalculating is not just for your GPS. Within the first mile, we threw away any finishing-time goal (see first video below) and simply focused on finishing without killing or injuring ourselves in the process.

Other than trying a few cigarettes as a teen, I’ve never smoked, but those hills made my lungs feel and sound like I’ve been smoking two packs a day for life. And I had no idea my thighs could burn that bad.

We dreamed of the hot breakfast waiting for us at the finish (Cheers to Pretzel City for having eggs, pancakes, bagels and more!) And relaxing in Bev’s hottub afterwards. We talked about the warm beaches in Florida, where we plan to relax in about six weeks, after we’ve run a Disney half-marathon. We run. We walked. We crawled. We laughed. We cursed.


Expect to be pleasantly surprised

When you push yourself to the limit and/or put yourself out there, enjoy the surprises that come your way. It really is possible to run in freezing temps and not freeze. Seriously, other than waiting for the run to start and after the finish, I was warm.

While running, I actually forgot how cold it was until I got to the water stop at mile 4.5 and not only was the water semi-frozen in the cups, so was the beer. Yes beer… how else do you expect the race directors to get people out there?


I’m not in these videos because I’m towards the back of the pack (imagine that) but here’s a glimpse of what Chilly Cheeks is. Christopher Hand is obviously in better shape than I am to be able to run and film. I’m impressed! Great job Christopher and thanks for sharing the videos.

The first video is shot within the first mile of the run.

And another one… near the end of the run.

Yes, it was brutal. But I’m glad I did it.

Not so I can say I did it… I think that’s an odd reason to do things.

I’m glad I did it… because stretching myself to the limit makes me feel fully alive… and that’s the best way to embrace each day.


Do you try to embrace each day? And/or have you stretched yourself to the limit recently? Why or why not?
Posted in Health,

Move it! Move it!

We’re often given conflicting news about what is best for our health.

Eggs are bad for you… eggs are good for you.
Cell phones give you brain cancer… or maybe not.
Too much sun is bad… but you need some to get Vitamin D.
Use sunscreen… but sunscreen might contain chemicals that could give you skin cancer.

And when it comes to supplements and medicines that ‘should’ improve health… the conflicting news is everywhere.

Calcium supplements should strengthen bones… but now a report suggests that excess calcium might increase the risk for heart attacks.

Some diabetes drugs lowered blood sugar beautifully… but then reports showed they increased the risk of heart disease.

And the big one for women:

For decades, women were told that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would protect them from all kinds of problems associated with aging. Heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women, was near the top of the list.

Then, in 2002, a large study showed that HRT actually increased the risk for heart disease, strokes and breast cancer. – from The People’s Pharmacy


Because good health is so vital and so personal, we should each take time to educate ourselves and to figure out what is best for our health.

Thankfully there one piece of health advice that is never contested!

Seriously, there is one piece of health advice that absolutely everyone* agrees on… from my grandmother to doctors to physical therapists to all the health experts, scientists. TV doctors and more.

And it is: our bodies are made for moving.

This was driven home to me after my injuries and during the years I struggled with depression. If you’ve a regularly reader, you know that running is part of my life now, but for a few years post-accident I didn’t want to exercise at all, not even walk more than necessary. (walking from the couch to the fridge and back was enough for me)

I was angry and depressed that I couldn’t run or bike like I did pre-accident, so I didn’t want to do anything. And I felt like I was justified to sit and do nothing the rest of my life.

Thankfully I had a tough-love doctor who blew that theory for me… he told me that since my body had been compromised with all the injuries, I needed to give it better care, not less care. To stay healthy to 100 or beyond, my body would need more exercise, not less.

That’s when I began doing what I can, with what I have, where I was.
'Pedestrian Crossing' photo (c) 2011, ToGa Wanderings - license:

For me, moving it meant walking. (trust me, you don’t want to see me dance)

Step-by-step… my body recovered better than I (or the doctors) ever thought it would. Walking increased the blood flow to my legs and feet which brought more healing. With time, I was able to walk with less pain and I’ve been back to running for about three years. I firmly believe that if we keep our bodies moving, it’s amazing what it does for our health… both physically and mentally.

You don’t have to run to be healthy… I happen to like it and it keeps me sane. Experts from Dan Buettner to the Mayo Clinic say walking is enough movement to help keep you healthy.

Because of the many benefits of walking, I walk to warmup and cool down before and after a run. I also take walking breaks during a run. No matter what pace I move, I’m still lapping everyone on the couch. I also try to park farther away from building entrances. And recently adding more steps to my days has been easier with my treadmill desk… nothing beats walking while working! (I’m walking as I write this)

Walk on!

There’s no debate that you will be doing the right thing for your body… and you might be amazed how many other health issues it takes care of.

Move it, move it!


What can you do today to move it? Or to add a few more steps to your day?
(Ok, I didn’t actually talk to everyone in the world, but you get my drift)
Posted in Personal

Making a Choice to Focus on the Beauty

Life is beautiful.
Life is messy.
People are beautiful.
People are messy.

Morning in Cape May, NJ ............ Janet Oberholtzer - 2010

Every morning when I wake up… I have a choice, whether I’m going to focus on the beauty or the messiness.

At one time, I totally focused on the beauty.

Idealistic optimist.
Life really is sunshine and beauty.. and if I found a weed or two, I denied it and moved on, only focusing on the beauty.
Then Hurricane Reality hit my world.

Since I had no framework for how to deal with the messes in life, I didn’t.
But not acknowledging the messiness and the disappointments I lived with caused a rift in my soul and I sank into the dark lonely hole of depression.

And the pendulum swung…

Discouraged pessimist.
Life sucks. There is no good anywhere. It’s all messy and weedy. If a speck of beauty happened to come into my vision, I ignored it, like I earlier ignored the messiness.

I sank deeper into the unknown hole… and almost convinced myself there was no way out.

Balanced reality.
With help from others and by sitting in the sun, I begin to realize beauty and messiness can live side by side. I allowed myself to be renewed and refreshed from the inside out. I throw away both extremes and find balance and hope by learning how to…
Celebrate the beauty while being honest about the messiness.

And life with both was beautiful, just like the picture above.

For a time the balance was easy to find… I saw beauty. I saw messiness. I felt beauty. I processed the messiness. And it resulted in an honest reality. I was hopeful and I shared hope.


But recently my own messiness, life and hormones* have made it harder to focus on the beauty. I seem to notice the messy things of life first and have a quick reaction to them.

But the choice is still mine… every minute of every day, I have the privilege of deciding if I am going to focus on the beauty or the mess.

Somedays I make better choices than others.

Every life is a blend of beauty and messiness. And everyone deserves to have their beauty noticed more than their messiness.

Everyone. Whether they are 1 or 100. Whether they’ve made good choice or bad choices. Whether they use sunscreen or not. Whether they find hope in this world or in a world beyond. Whether I like them or not.

I need to take time to evaluate, think and to be cautious about my focus and my reaction. Not to deny reality, because messiness needs to be acknowledged and at times it needs to be addressed. If the weeds at the beach weren’t kept at bay, they could block out the sunrise. But I need to realize my first reaction may or may not be the wisest.

Breathe in… breathe out.

Be realistic about both the beauty and messiness.

Focus on the beauty.
*Not making excuses, but dealing with my reality, I’m in my mid-40’s and hormones change… and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that ignoring reality doesn’t work.

Another Label that Fits Me or I Fit it

As I mentioned recently, though I dislike some labels, I’m now claiming some to have a truer picture about who I am. In that post I claim the title runner. Even though I’ve been running for almost 20 years (other than during a 4-year trip to hell and back) many days I still find it hard to call myself a runner.

Today I embrace another label.


I am a skeptic. 

'cercando delle risposte, ho trovato solo altre domande' photo (c) 2011, Alessandra Oddi - license:

Though I scour the internet for reviews before I even buy a toaster and I doubted Y2K would happen and I question every Facebook link before I click it… I rarely called myself a skeptic. I didn’t think I fit the image.

I’ve looked at real skeptics as extremely smart people, searching for wisdom, like Rachel. They  knew why they have questions and doubts. They have a purpose or reason for the questions that pop into their mind. I assumed real skeptics had to spend years getting a formal education … maybe even having a few initials behind their name.

They, the real skeptics, deserved the title skeptic and it moved their questions and doubts from being annoying to being validated.

I didn’t fit the idea of a skeptic I had in my mind.

And therein lies the problem … it was only my mental image of a skeptic.

Skeptic: a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions…

I question or doubt… therefore I am a skeptic.


I’ve been asking questions since I could talk. (maybe it started with the extra-high fever at age two)  As a kid, I questioned everything from why I had to make my bed every day to how the carpet cleaner worked to what tapioca is made of. (I was annoyed and amused to read the ingredient list on a box of dry tapioca: tapioca)

As a teen, my questions evolved to how can I wear jeans and not go to hell to why don’t women get treated the same way men do. My biggest questions were about God and his connection (or lack thereof) with humanity.

Through-out my life, I’ve been told that my questions and doubts are annoying and/or rebellious… first by my family and then by others. I can’t count the times I’ve been told to quit asking questions… even as recently as last week.

But yet questions have been my friend!

Being skeptical lead me to doubt the doctors when they said that running was a thing of my past. Questions about what I’m putting into my body have lead me to a healthier diet of primarily plant-based foods. Questions help me learn, expand my horizons and help me find peace.

So I’ve vacillated between embracing my skeptic nature and hiding it. Many times I’ve fallen silent in conversations because I don’t want to ask one more question… sometimes that is a good thing, others times it is not.

As I’ve dropped my fear of what others will think, I embraced my skeptic side. I haven’t find answers to all my questions and doubts, but for the first time in my life … I feel more at peace and more fully alive. I am more whole and more complete, because I’m not hiding any part of myself.

Acknowledging some of my questions and doubts in Because I Can was a major step forward for me. I allowed myself to write publicly about things I normally only pondered silently or with a select few.

As I allow myself to question, doubt and explore, I’ve been amazed at how much more whole and complete I feel, which can only lead me to say one thing…

I am a skeptic … and I’m okay with that.
Do you ask questions? If so, what’s the ‘biggest’ question you have?


I Dislike Labels, but I’m Claiming Some—Why?

I’ve never liked labels, especially not for people.

For myself or for others.

Labels prevent us from seeing individuals. 

In my twenties when I first registered to vote (Not because I was a slacker, but because my strict menno upbringing didn’t allow women to vote*) I registered as a republican because that’s what my husband and most of my friends were.

I soon realized that carrying that label meant people thought I fit in a certain box… which I didn’t. I’d try to explain that only my one foot was in that box, but having a political label meant I was constantly having to unbox myself.

The minute I realized one could register as an independent… I promptly marched myself to wherever I marched to (or maybe I mailed something, I forget) and I became a proud card-carrying independent.


Labels annoy me enough that I’ve written about them a few times. They can be limiting and can mean different things to different people, so I prefer to say no to labels and yes to people.  And labels do not tell the whole story, whether that be concerning people or food.

And yet …

Because nothing is ever totally one thing or another.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start putting labels on you… other than my dear readers. But as I was trying to set some overall goals for this year, I wondered if it might not hurt to claim a few labels for myself. It could help me have a truer picture who I am and what I want to do. It could help narrow the choices I make each day.

Here goes… claiming the first of a few labels for myself.


I’m a runner. 

For years, I wouldn’t call myself that. I didn’t feel like a real runner. I felt like an impostor. Yes, I ran a few times a week. And did races regularly. And had the drawer full of assorted running clothes and paraphernalia.

But runners were athletes. People who ran during any weather. Real runners liked running every second they were out there. They didn’t pant like I did. Runners never sabotaged a long run by eating or drinking too much the night before. Real runners never skipped a planned run. Or quit after a mile.

I didn’t fit the idea of a runner I had in my mind.

And therein lies the problem … it was only my mental image of a runner, not the definition of a runner.

A runner is a person who runs … -
I run … so therefore I am a runner. 

And there’s more to the definition …

Runner: a person who runs, esp. in a specified way …

In a specified way? Yes, I do that. I run in a specific-Janet way … no one else runs just like me. (especially true post-accident) 

The Janet-specific way means warming up with a 10-minute walk before I run, so that I don’t get an attack of exercise-induced asthma. It means alternating 4 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking to lessen the impact on my body. It means always needing tissues, but always forgetting them. (no need for details on how I solve that dilemma)

I slowly changed my mental image of a runner from a non-sweaty-non-panting-super-discplined-perfect-runner into a person who runs. I’ve always enjoyed running, but not feeling like I have to fit a perfect image of a runner allows me to enjoy it even more, because I can do it in whatever way works for me.

I am a runner.


If you run (1 mile a week or 50 miles a week) … do you find it hard to call yourself a runner? Why or why not?

What’s your take on labels? Could certain ones help us set goals that we might stick to past February?


*While not many men vote, they are allowed to… and even encouraged to at times, especially if the issue at hand concerns their monetary interests.