Your Story: Living Each Day Well–Because She Can

This is post two in a series of sharing your inspiring stories in my quest to take over the negative news media by sharing positive, inspiring stories from others who are…
doing what they can, with what they have, where they are. 


Erica Oldham M.D.

Today we meet Erica Oldham M.D. an impressive woman I heard speak at a Women2Know event. I love her attitude of living each day well and I think you will too.


Janet: Tell us about yourself.

Erica: I am in my mid 40s, married and a retired internal medicine physician. Although I am a very independent person I am also very social. I believe in living life to its fullest and I have always had a very positive attitude. I have very little fear in life and believe it is best to take the unfamiliar  road, try the  unknown food and travel to the exotic destination. I am very passionate about world travel, have a great appreciation for food and love animals. I try to be a kind and thoughtful person and believe it very important to give back through volunteerism and to promote positive change in the world.


There’s a common thought that we can overcome obstacles… I’ve found that sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but we can learn to live well even with difficult obstacles. What obstacles have you learned to live with and/or overcome?

Erica Oldham MD – India

At age 13 I was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy called FSH. This disease is not life threatening but has caused muscle weakness and secondary arthritis. I can only walk short distances and often require a wheelchair. Most activities of daily living require more energy for me to complete then the average person.

With that said I believe we all have challenges in life and often it is ones attitude that is a bigger obstacle then the actual challenge. I have encountered  people who are unable to deal with a very small issue or challenge and  also those that rise to the occasion without difficulty when faced with extreme challenges.

I believe in looking to oneself to achieve and conquer and it is the individual that has all the power to determine their course in life.


What do you do that others are surprised you do?

Erica Oldham MD – In an Ecuador Jungle

Some folks are surprised that I went to medical school, residency and practiced medicine without any special  accommodation and graduated with honors. I used my life experiences, dealing with a chronic illness to become a better doctor. I understood the importance of taking the time to listen to patients and to educate and involve people in their own medical care.

Secondly I have traveled the world with my husband Dan. If you think of the most impractical places to take a wheelchair, we have probably already been there. We have traveled extensively to locations in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America some of them extremely remote.

Dan and I have learned to improvise when needed and it is not unusual to find him piggy backing me through a jungle or up an ancient flight of steps. we believe in embracing the culture and food of the destinations we travel and always try the unknown.

Erica Oldham MD – Egypt


What dreams and goals do you have for yourself for now and into the future?

I believe it is important to plan for your future financially but I believe in living your dreams in the present. Life is short and I think too many people spend too much time planning for the future but forget to live right now.


What does a well-lived day look like for you?

Everyday for me is a well lived day because I am being true to myself, doing what I want to do in life in the present and trying to give back. I enjoy life, it is that simple.

Leave your comments or thoughts for Erica below.

Sharing stories is how we grow, how we are inspired and how we learn to live well.
If interested in sharing your (or someone else’s) story,
head over to the YOUR STORY  page, there’s place on the bench for you.

*More of Your Inspiring Stories
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
 Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
 Beverly Shantz, Living and Laughing—Because She Can!
 Roni Noone does Fitbloggin’—Because She Can!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can!
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Running Truly is for all Ages 
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Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!

How many of you have been involved in a conversation where you and/or others were complaining about all the bad news that is in the media everyday? One day after hearing one too many of those conversations I decided to start sharing inspiring stories on this blog.


So I plan to counteract the big-negative-news-media-machine by
doing what I can, with what I have, where I am. 


So today is the first in the series of sharing your inspiring stories.


This spring, I did the Beat Beethoven Race in Reading, PA. Afterwards I meet these two lovely sisters, Catherine and Joan. They are both firm believers in doing what they can to keep their bodies as healthy as they can.

When I was just picking up speed as a 3-year old toddler running around on my parent’s farm, Catherine was starting to run as a 40-year old woman. And she’s ran consistently since then, doing races of all lengths, even completing one full marathon.

Now at the spry young age of 84, she still runs regularly and she does one 5K (3.1 miles) race a month… always winning an age-group award. 

Note Catherine’s medal—Note my lack of a medal

Though I don’t run for medals, they are nice to get, so I’ll be looking for a race with no other women age 45 to 50, then I can also sport an age-group medal like Catherine does.

Many of Catherine’s friends, along with her husband, aren’t nearly as active as she is, but she has never let that stop her from doing what she can to be healthy.

Almost 30 years after Catherine started running, her younger sister Joan decided it was time to keep up with her older sister. Joan began running at age 57. Now age 72, she joins Catherine in doing one 5K a month.

I look forward to seeing these lovely ladies at another race in the coming months and years.


Thanks Catherine and Joan for doing what you can… because you can!
You’ve inspired me to keep on, keeping on… because I can!


Inspired? Leave a note for Catherine and Joan in the comments to thank them for being good role models. Also if you (or someone you know) has an inspiring story, share it below or at my Your Story page.

Other inspiring stories…
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can

Running Truly is for all Ages
Hockey and Running, Because He Can! 
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Were the Good Old Days really Good?

Often idolized
Romanticized and glamorized
Viewed as a better time to be alive than today

There should be a mirror in everyone’s memory saying certain items are not as good as they appear. While some aspects of life might have been better, this day and age provides more and presents us with more opportunities than any previous one ever has.

There’s been studies that have found somewhat of a reason for the good-old-days-rose-colored glasses… thinking about the good old days triggers neurochemicals that make you feel good. And apparently feeling good causes many to forget the past also had only 24 hours in a day, crying toddlers, conflicts, financial issues, cheating, greed, crime, rape and murder.

Do yourself a favor… stroll through your comfortable house to your perfect Pottery Barn desk and your ergonomically correct chair. Click a few buttons on a gadget made of metal, glass and plastic that instantly connects you, not only with people close by, but the whole freakin’ world!

Do some research on statistics about deaths from childhood, polio, infections and more in years past. Also look up what some of the items you regularly use looked like in the good old days. Can you find a shower, stove, washing machine, refrigerator and lawn mower?

I don’t know how they survived… I couldn’t find any evidence of a Keurig coffee maker.

And think of this… if you are now around 50 and if you lived in the 1920s, you’d be dead or almost dead now. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Plus, have you ever considered that fact that these are the ‘good old days’ future generations will look back on with rose-colored glasses? (okay, maybe not the recession, but in general)

So look around and realize what an awesome time we live in!

One thing we have that our ancestors could not even begin to fathom is endless  opportunities to educate ourselves at no cost.


12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free


12 and dozen together is not a typo… there seriously are 12 dozen places on the list.
And if you read through the comments, you find even more that other readers have left.

So the next time you wish you knew more about so and so… with a few clicks, you can probably remedy that. And with that list, you should never be bored again.

And whenever you get caught in the trap of thinking life in the good old days was better or easier… sit on your porcelain throne in your temperate-controlled bathroom and use your soft 2-ply quilted toilet paper to wipe the rose-coloring off your rear-view mirror.


So instead of complaining or wishing… let’s embrace life today and live it well. And maybe click a few buttons and learn something new, there’s a few dozen places waiting on you.

Life is good… embrace it and live well!
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Don’t Copy From Others—Make Your Own Bucket List

Bucket lists.
They are somewhat of a thing.
A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.

Many people have them… on a crumpled piece of paper in their wallet, taped on their mirror or posted on their blog. The lists range from seeing the ocean to programing a game to skydiving to going to Yemen (hey, I’m sure it’s on someone’s list)

I think bucket lists can be cool, but I also think sometimes the true point of them is missed.

Bucket lists can help us think through what we want to do in life… hard things, easy things, serious things and funny things. Things for ourself and things to help others. So these lists can be beneficial to help focus, plan and achieve.

But the point of them is missed when people have items on their list just so they can tell others they did them, rather than doing things simply for the experience of doing them.

While I have a bucket list floating around in my head, I don’t have a written list. But one of these days, I plan to write one. And I encourage you to do that same… whether you write it down or not, at least think through some things you would like to experience before you die.

As David McCullough Jr, a High English Teacher said in a recent commencement speech…

Climb the mountain, not to plant your flag,
but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.
Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. 

Who are you? How are you wired? What interests you? What country have you always wanted to travel to? A meaningful life is about experiences that mean something to you. So while you can get ideas from other people and their lists, make your own list.

Then do what you can to take steps toward checking things off your list. More wise words from David McCullough Jr.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life,
the relevant life is an achievement, not something
that falls into your life because you are a nice person.
Get busy. Have at it.
Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you.
Get up. Get out. Explore.
Find it yourself. Grab hold with both hands. 

If you are liking the words of David McCullough Jr, take a few minutes to listen to his excellent commencement speech and then start thinking about and/or writing your own bucket list.


What advice of his stood out to you?
And what is one thing on your bucket list that probably won’t be on anyone else’s list?
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Taking the Bible Literally Causes Death by Snake Bite

In the traditional conservative Mennonite culture that I lived in until I was 20, I was taught to take the Bible literally (the King James Version was THE king). Verses were used to show why women must wear head coverings, why divorce is not allowed and why women are forbidden to be pastors. (though I could never get an answer as to why braided hair was okay or why selling all and giving it to the poor wasn’t the norm)

Then in the conservative evangelical culture I was in for the next 15+ years, I was also taught to take the Bible literally (though now the New International Version was THE version). That was why speaking in tongues was encouraged, why gays were considered an abomination and why women couldn’t be pastors (though now divorce could be justified if one’s spouse doesn’t live up to their vows, but I still couldn’t get an answer as to why selling all and giving it to the poor wasn’t the norm) 

Yet I know most, if not all, the people in both of those cultures will shake their heads at this story about a pastor from a small Signs Following Pentecostal group.


‘Serpent-Handling’ West Virginia
Pastor Dies From Snake Bite


They will ask, “What was he thinking!?”

And many will say that he deserved what happened.

Yet, all he did was take the Bible literally. It’s there in plain words… whether you are reading the King James Version of the New International Version.


18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them… Mark 16:18 KJV

18 They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all… Mark 16:18 NIV


Photo by Lauren Pond, Washington Post

The group took the entire verse literally, on occasion they’d also drink poison.

And this pastor handled snakes, even after watching his snake-handling father die from a snake bite about 25 years ago. In an interview last year, the pastor said, “Anybody can do it that believes it. Jesus said, ‘These signs shall follow them which believe.’ This is a sign to show people that God has the power.”


Since I began asking questions about religion and faith, first as a teen and then again in the past few years, I’ve realized that everyone picks and chooses what they believe from the Bible. Each denomination, group and sect zeros in on certain verses and makes them their focus. Even churches who promote themselves as being full-gospel churches, because other than this fringe group, I haven’t seen any of them handle snakes, so they are also picking and choosing.

And yes, I know this pastor is an extremist and we need to use moderation and discernment (whose?) and all the jazz… but the questions remain. And that my friends… is why I can’t help but continue to ask why about most things surrounding religion, faith, and God.

Do I think his death is God’s will for him, like some of his followers do? No, I don’t.
Is the pastor’s death his own fault? I think it is.

But having said that, I actually feel sad for this pastor. I’m sad that he felt he had to live such a risky life to please God. I’m sad that his life ended so young.  I’m sad at the separation that must have existed between him and his family in the years before his death, because while his mother attended his church, his wife and children did not. I’m sad that there’s 80 to 100 other deaths attributed to this type of snake handling since its origins in the early 1900s.

Along with sadness, I’m frustrated at the oppression religious mindsets can put on people.

As I wrote in Because I Can… trying to accept my new normal after the accident with the spiritual mindsets of my past is when I struggled with depression the most. It was only when I quit God as I knew him and allowed myself to go through a spiritual renewal that I began crawling out of the dark hole of depression.

And the journey of renewal continues today…
Because life is too beautiful and too short to do anything other than live well.
‘Serpent-Handling’ West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite, ABC News, May, 2012
Snake handling is still considered a sign of faith, Washington Post, November, 2011
Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith, an intriguing post by a photojournalist who witnessed his death, Washington Post, May, 2012 


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Plant-Based Cook N Share with Friends

A few months ago, I came across a blog describing an evening of cooking that the blog’s author and her friends had done. (I forgot to bookmark the page and for the life of me I can’t find the blog again, hate when I do that!) They did this to have fun and to inspire each other to eat healthier. All the dishes they made were plant-based.

This idea appealed to me because I’ve been eating a plant-based diet (no meat or fish, but I do eat dairy products) for about 2 1/2 years now and I like new ideas and recipes.

I mentioned the idea to a friend and she ran with it (love when friends do that!) She has now hosted two Cook n Share events at her house. We arrive with some of the initial prep work done for our recipes. Then we mix, assemble, cook and/or bake the dishes together… and finish the evening by sitting down to a delicious dinner.

Enjoy the pictures of either the assembly or the finished product of most of our dishes.

Chopping fresh spinach

Chopping fresh spinach for Vegetable Enchiladas, a dish even my meat-loving sons love and have requested multiple repeats of it. btw… that is an Alaskan Ulu and Bowl, which is great for chopping anything, especially spinach and fresh herbs.


Blueberry-Wheatberry Salad

Can’t find this recipe online… so here it is.

1 cup blueberries
1 cup cooked wheatberries
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 tbs minced fresh dill

3 tbs lime juice
1 tbs honey
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp finely grated lime or lemon rind
1/8 tsp paprika and ground coriander
1/2 cup sunflower or safflower oil

Combine the salad, make the dressing and then toss together. Serve on a bed of spinach.


Sauteing with both water and oil.

Love this tip I learned this month!  Saute vegetables with water and oil (maybe 1 tsp oil to 2 tsp water) to lighten-up a dish. This was for veggie fried black rice.


The completed black rice dish.

All those colorful vegetables are still in there, but most have turned various shades of black.

Veggie Fried Black Rice by The Natural Vegan Kitchen

I couldn’t find this recipe online and didn’t feel like typing it out. (click on it to enlarge it)
fyi… tamari is soy sauce.


Tess's garden

Halfway through cooking we took a walk outside to Tess’s perfect garden to get kale for Kim’s salad. Well, Kim is getting kale as the rest of us take pictures and enjoy our slushy wine. Put any wine in a blender with ice cubes. Voila’… you have a refreshing summer drink.

Massaging (yes, massaging) the kale

Kale is all the rage, but I haven’t really had any kale chips/salads/dishes that I like… until this salad! Maybe the trick is that it was freshly picked (which means I’ll be sneaking into Tess’s garden late at night) or maybe it was that this kale was massaged, because massages make everything better, even kale. Random how to massage kale video I found.


Radish butter

Yes, seriously… radish butter and it’s delicious. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I love it. (had some on toast for breakfast :) The talented Phoebe of phoebo’s pure foods made it.


Greens with strawberries, cashews and Gorgonzola cheese

This salad was sprinkled with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Delicious!


Time to eat!

Plate from last night’s dinner, starting at the bottom right… the massaged kale with cucumbers and tomatoes, the strawberry/cashew/cheese salad, veggie fried black rice, radish butter on a cracker, tortilla and bean pie, white bean patty (which would make a great sandwich, but because we had so much food, we opted to eat the patties bunless)

We each brought empty storage containers and took some of each recipe home. The few days after our cooking events have quickly become my favorite days of each month because my fridge is filled with foods I love to eat.

Even if you are a meatlover, I think most of these recipes will surprise you. So make a shopping list and treat yourself to some great dishes. Or better yet, connect with a few friends that eat a similar diet and plan your own Cook n Share event.


Anyone have any recipes for me to try at our next Cook n Share event?


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Stop Wishing or Giving Excuses—Just Start Running

It’s National Running Day! If you are a runner, I hope you have time to enjoy a run today.

If you aren’t a runner and you want to be one, stop wishing and/or making excuses… and start moving.

To begin running, you don’t need anything but yourself and a pair of sneakers. You don’t need the lastest and greatest type of running shoe. You don’t need a matching running outfit. You don’t need a watch. You don’t need a running buddy. You don’t need gatorade.

To start running: simply drink some water,
go out the door and put one foot in front of the other
And you are on your way!

Walk for at least ten minutes. Seriously. You have to warm your body up. I can almost guarantee that if you break into a run right away, you will hate running.

If you are on a road with telephone poles, run from one pole to the other. If not, run to the count of 50 or 60. Don’t sprint. Don’t push yourself to run fast. Just run at a comfortable pace that works for you.

Even if you can run farther, stop at the next pole. Walk to the following pole and repeat.

For beginning runners, running until you are
totally exhausted is a sure way to hate running.

Stopping before you are exhausted will allow you to continue the run/walk intervals longer, which will help your body and mind get stronger, which will help you run farther soon.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Do these run/walk intervals anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to start. Aim to do them every other day or about three times a week. Then after a week or so, add a few minutes to your time.

You can do this… seriously! Even if you’ve never been a runner. Even if you think you can’t. Even if others think you can’t. Even if you have pain here and there. It’s four years since I’ve taken my first tentative running steps after the accident and I continue to be amazed how my energy increases and my pain decreases the longer I run.

And many others have also discovered how running helps with aches and pain.

Yolanda runs because it helps with the aches and pain from fibromyalgia.
Casey plans to “kick Lyme’s butt” by running a half-marathon in March, 2013.
Adam run a 5k over 20 years after being diagnosed with lupus.
Troy has run three 5ks on a prosthetic leg since losing his lower leg in an accident.
Roger started running when he was obese and now has an inspiring YouTube video.
Michelle channels her rage to help her run and lose weight.
Many people in this Runner’s World forum share how running helps with their depression.
Krysten, a girl with “a robot heart, no boobs, and stubby little Hungarian legs” doesn’t let that stop her from running.
Running helped Vern as he grieved the loss of his wife, now he’s turned his passion for running into a way to help other families struggling with cancer. Check out OneRunTogether.

So what was your excuse again?

It's your choice

Start doing the run/walk method now and you could celebrate
your running start date along with the National Running Day next year. 
Are you or someone you know running even if you/they have a major ‘excuse’ not to?


Other posts I’ve done about running…
Getting there pole by pole
The myth about running hurting your knees
Running Shoes—Regular, Trail, Minimalist or Barefoot?
My run/walk/run plan for healthy running today and long into the future.

“Make Good Art” by Neil Gaiman

It’s the time of year for college commencement speeches… which I love. Though I’m a ‘few’ years beyond the normal college graduate’s age, I love hearing the speaker’s stories, advice, motivation, the things they feel they did right and the mistakes they made.

Below is a speech by author Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA on May 17, 2012. I haven’t read anything by Gaiman yet, but after listening to this, I plan to.

If you have a dream, no matter what dream or what age you are, you will like this (except maybe the part where he lied to get jobs) especially if you want to Make Good Art.

A few great lines…

Don’t worry if it’s impossible or not…
If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do. 

Do the impossible, because if no one has done it before,
they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone from doing it again.


And a few more good lines…

Keep trying,
most of us only find our own voices,
after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.

Be wise, the world needs more wisdom.
If you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise
and then behave like they would.