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Don’t Give Me Some Sugar

Magazines in a library

We are drowning in misinformation. Boing, boing, boing – our belief system is challenged so frequently we end up with whiplash. There are studies that make us believe one thing. Eventually, those studies are disproved, and we’re supposed to believe something else. We’ve seen it with so many things we ingest, inhale, inhabit. We’re inundated with ads telling us life will be so much better if only we own – or use – certain things. If we question their safety or efficacy, studies are shoved in our face to assure us that all is good and benign and we should all just shut up, close our eyes, and don’t worry, be happy.

We like to hang onto the things that make us feel good. Years ago, it was cigarettes.  cigaretteWhen scientists were attempting to ring the alarm bells as to the dangers of smoking, the tobacco industry funded studies to calm those fears, assuring the public that there wasn’t any real danger and you could just keep puffing away with no ill effects. You were cool and fun if you smoked. Happy, popular people waving cigarettes around were the pictures we were deluged with on TV, in movies, and in magazines. The images of rotted lungs and cancer-ridden bodies were kept well-hidden for years. Big Tobacco had their own “peer-reviewed” studies published in major scientific journals to counter the bad publicity. Is anyone surprised? My guess is, not really.

e-cigNow there’s controversy over vaping. For those who want to smoke anywhere that smoking is prohibited, e-cigarettes initially seemed like a great option. But now we are hearing about their dangerous chemicals and flavorings and the fact that inhaling the vapor both first- and second-hand may be carcinogenic after all. While I don’t know of any current studies that purport vaping is perfectly safe, I’m waiting for that industry to push back in order to keep their profit margins healthy.

antibac-soapRecently, antibacterial soap has been banned. For years, we felt cleaner, even more virtuous, using antibacterial soap instead of plain old soap and water. It made sense, right? We were germ warriors, fighting disease and nasty bacteria while we sang two  verses of “Happy Birthday” as our hands foamed up with antibacterial cleanser straight from the pump, and water. And now, our halos have been tarnished by the knowledge that it soapwas all for naught. A plain old bar of no-name soap has the same cleaning properties as our fancy, expensive, wonderfully scented cleansers. And it’s probably much safer as well.

But to me, the most egregious betrayal has been done to us by the sugar industry. Sugar! Sweet and wonderful sugar. Where would we be sugarwithout birthday cake and chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream and chocolate?

What happened was almost Shakespearean in the depth of the lies and treachery that pinned our growing obesity and heart disease epidemic solely on fat. Everything changed after these studies seemed to show, without a doubt, that we needed to stop eating fat – immediately. So new fat-freeindustries suddenly appeared – fat-free everything became the rage. The fact that even more sugar was being added to these foods to make them not taste like cardboard, was largely ignored.

A quote found on the NBC News page sums it all up: “Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease,” Kearns, Glantz and colleagues wrote. “By the 1980s, few scientists believed that added sugars played a significant role in coronary heart disease, and the first 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused on reducing total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol for coronary heart disease prevention,” they added.

dollarsThink of what this means for a moment. Think of all the money you spent on crappy tasting food because you thought it would make you healthy. Think of all the people who developed or increased their heart-disease risks and diabetes risks because they stopped eating fats, but continued to load up on sugar-laden foods. Think of the fact that the people behind industry-funded research don’t give a damn about anything other than the almighty dollar and we are paying the price for all of this greed and corruption. And we are not only paying the price in dollars, but also with our health – and our lives.

Even though I consider myself a realist, this even surprised me. If you can’t trust something as sweet as sugar, who or what can you trust?  I expect politicians to betray me. I expect boyfriends to betray me. I’ve even learned to expect my own body to betray me. But sugar? It’s enough to push me over the edge in search of a bar of chocolate. Or ice cream. Or both.



Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved


But I Have A Coupon

writerLet me start this post by acknowledging that it’s been awhile since I’ve felt up to writing. My brain seems to have been rewired the past year due to a series of events that felt like literal slams to the head, and it’s become more difficult for me to write something longer than 140 characters. But in the past few days, I’ve had some silly First World problems that  fell into a pattern that was so inane, the only place it made sense to gripe about this nonsense was this blog.

It all had to do with brick-and-mortar stores and coupons. For those of you who don’t know me, I need to tell you that I absolutely LOVE coupons. I’ve been known to drive many miles out of my way if I’ve got a coupon for an amazing deal. No one should take that pleasure away from me, since I ask for so little in life. When I get a shirt that was originally $50 for $5 between sales and coupons, it almost makes up for the fact that all I can eat these days without getting sick, is food that tastes like cardboard.

First, I went to my favorite chain drugstore yesterday with two $5 coupons in hand. drugstore-makeupThe makeup area had little yellow signs everywhere that if you spent $20 on certain brands, you would get a $10 coupon as a reward. Who could pass that up when my brand was included? They’re practically giving the makeup away at that point! So as I started picking up some blush and concealer to bring to the register, one of the salespeople was nearby and informed me that the special did not start until 4:00 PM that afternoon. It was only 1 o’clock. I said I had never heard of such a thing at a drugstore. She said she had put the signs up early so they’d be ready, and pointed to a teensy weensy dot in the upper right-hand corner of the sign that she assured me said the special started at 4:00. I had to take her word for it since that caveat just looked like a dead gnat when I peered at it without my reading glasses. I sighed and put everything back. However, I did return today and did buy what I needed to stock up on, got to use my $5 coupons, and got the $10 coupon in return. But, seriously, it was kind of ridiculous.

I then decided to get some exercise in by walking around the mall. It’s just been too hot to walk outside this summer unless you want to melt into a puddle of skin and bones. The problem is, I feel the need to reward myself with some retail therapy after, which isn’t a great thing for my budget. I suppose it’s better than rewarding myself with a hot sundaefudge sundae. My favorite department store had a coupon for $10 off $50 which included not only regular and sale priced-merchandise, but also clearance, which is practically unheard of. But if you were buying less than $50 of merchandise, they were offering 25% off, which was actually a better deal. So I found a few things I liked, waited on a very slow-moving line for about 10 minutes, and presented my merchandise. The salesgirl agreed with me that the 25% discount was the way to go. She rang up my merchandise and scanned the coupon. A concerned look came over her face and she informed me she’d have to try the $10 coupon after all since for some reason the other coupon wasn’t working. Then she tried that coupon and it didn’t work either. She asked where I had gotten the merchandise and I pointed. “Oh,” she said, with a disappointed look on her face. “Those are doorbusters and you can’t use a coupon for doorbusters.” “What?” I practically shrieked, very grumpy after standing on that line for so long. “But this coupon says it’s for all merchandise.” But of course, it wasn’t. The one exclusion was doorbusters. I told her to forget it, except for the clearance shirt I got for $6.

Today, while running errands, I stopped at a smaller clothing store where I had a coupon for 50% off your highest-priced item if you spent a certain amount. They outletwere also having a sale of 40% off everything in the store, but you couldn’t combine the two. I found two things I really liked, went to the register to pay, smilingly handed my coupon to the saleswoman and, guess what? The coupon wouldn’t work. Why not? Because in tiny little print it said it was only for their outlet stores, and was only good through tomorrow. Well, the nearest outlet store is 45 minutes away, so that wasn’t my first option – not this weekend. I ended up settling for 40% off plus another small discount for being a frequent customer, or some such thing.


What’s the takeaway? Many brick-and-mortar stores aren’t doing so great these days, especially with the ease of ordering things online. My suggestion? Don’t make it so hard for customers who really want to shop in your store to get their discounts.  Don’t make coupons that are so limiting or confusing that the coupons will only work for 1% of the merchandise. Because you’re gambling that we’ll buy your stuff anyway. But many of us will put the items back, storm dramatically out of the store, and have some not-so-great feelings about returning another time. Of course, there are still those of us who will return another day – as long as you’ll take our coupons.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved


New Naturally Nancy Post

pumpkin.pasta.13If you’re looking for a new, healthy twist on pasta (which can be made gluten-free), take a look at my latest recipe, Pumpkin Veggie Pasta, at Naturally Nancy. Here’s the link:

Three Thursdays In February – Or My Left Foot

I’m sure no one would blame me for having heart palpitations as I approach each Thursday this month, after you hear my story. I never used to have this issue. But last year, I had three disastrous Thursdays in a row, to the point that when the fourth Thursday of the month loomed, I pretty much spent it in bed, hiding under the covers. Supposedly, these events were all random and I shouldn’t assign any special meaning to the fact that they occurred three weeks in a row – all on a Thursday. But human nature begs to differ.

february--calendar-53244e39213a5The first event is kind of personal, so I’m not going to go into it here. Let’s just say, it wasn’t positive and it was life-changing. But it happened the first Thursday of the month last year. And I had no idea that was just the beginning.


The second Thursday, my beloved Hershey – funny and loving, and my constant companion of almost 16 years – had a stroke. I wasn’t there when it happened, but it was apparent that night that things were pretty dire. He tried to rally the next day, but although he had had several similar incidents in the past, I knew this time he wouldn’t be able to come back to me. He died the next morning, on Valentine’s Day. I spent that Valentine’s Day with a broken heart.hershey.on.deck






ankle.castThe third Thursday, I tried to be strong and assure myself that the fact that these other awful events had occurred on Thursdays was just a coincidence. School had been out for a few days due to a winter storm, and it was my first day back tutoring. I was so happy to get back to work. All went well, until it didn’t. Black ice got me, my leg shot out from under me and I then landed on it, causing a spiral fracture. Aside from the constant pain and inability to get around very well, it turned out two months later that I had ended up with blood clots in the leg as well! It’s been almost a year now, and things are still not back to normal, – but I’m just grateful I no longer need the knee scooters, the boot, or the crutches.


So now, here we are a year later, with two Thursdays down. The first Thursday went by without incident. I started to breathe. The second Thursday was very odd. Let me crutchesfirst say that the ankle that was fractured was my left ankle. So I went to tutor my first student yesterday. She was hopping around on crutches because she had pulled a muscle in her leg – her left leg. I went to see my next student. She had a giant boot on – you guessed it – her left leg. She had fallen and twisted her leg. I came home and let the dogs out. When we came in, Maddie (my six-year-old pup) was hopping around on 3 legs – she must have stepped on something in the yard that hurt one of her rear paws. Which paw, you might ask? Ding, ding, ding! If you guessed the left paw, you’d be correct. I have no idea what the significance of this left foot business is, but I find it to be very odd.


There are two more Thursdays to get through this month, hopefully without incident. I’ll let you know if there are any further events. But then again if there are, you might not hear from me. If you don’t hear anything, you’ll most likely find me in bed, hiding under my covers.maddie.undercovers


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

You Are Beautiful

seventeen.twiggyWhen I was younger, I never felt good about how I looked. I was too skinny, not pretty enough, not graceful enough, just not enough. Looking at the models in Seventeen Magazine made things even worse. I was 5 foot 7 inches, and in my last year of high school, I went from 115 pounds, to 118 pounds. That sent me into a total panic, so I decided I had to take drastic measures. I started skipping lunch at school, instead eating only a box of raisins in a desperate attempt to stop the normal curves of approaching womanhood from overtaking me.


In retrospect, for a girl with self-confidence issues, moving to California – specifically Los Angeles – was probably not the best move to boost my self-esteem. Particularly, working in the entertainment industry where every female looked like she had come out of the live-edition Barbie factory. The message that was reinforced again and barbieagain, both at work and in the dating world was, appearances matter. Youth, beauty and near-starvation were the values that ruled – and (lots of) money was the only thing that might help alleviate the lack of any of the first three values.



From a young age, girls are praised for being pretty. As we get a little older, we’re praised for being beautiful. Or thin. Or both. Brains and talent often take a back seat, or are mentioned almost as a consolation prize.


Two things I saw today brought all of this home to me once again. The first was a photo of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. You might be aware that Ms. Fisher has been relentlessly derided by many online users for having had the temerity to actually age. She has ably shut down the haters, but it’s still disgusting that she has to put up with this kind of garbage. So the words that go along with this photo (from Being Liberal) are: Men don’t age better than women – they are just allowed to age. Exactly. star.wars.awakens


The second thing I saw was a post about a young actress named Ashley Benson who was told she was told she was too fat to get a role. Ms. Benson is a size 2. Wrap your head around that. A size 2 is considered too fat. Will Hollywood only be happy when they cast skeletons in their films? And young girls see this. Or they see completely unrealistic, air-brushed images of other young women, thinking this kind of perfection is the only way they will be accepted – and acceptable.

dove-campaingThere are people fighting against this, most notably the Dove campaign for real beauty, attempting to widen the definition of beauty.  According to one of their studies, only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. How sad is that?


As we age, women become invisible as far as our society is concerned. But in spite of that, we’re still expected to be stylish, wrinkle-free, and as always, thin, or we’re discarded like yesterday’s trash.

We’ve made some strides over the years, but just like the lack of income equity, there is no such thing as age equity when it comes to gender. Or body image equity. Since Hollywood – which is where so much of our societal expectations come from – is still mostly ruled by testosterone, I guess this should come as no big surprise. But maybe we can work on the vocabulary of gender. I’m not saying it’s wrong to tell a girl she’s pretty, just as I believe it’s OK to tell a boy he’s handsome. But let’s not stop there. Let’s make sure our children see the beauty in what’s inside a person. And that different sizes, shapes, colors, and abilities reflect diversity, which is a good thing. A beautiful thing. How poor this world would be if we were all the same. Let them celebrate the fact that everyone is unique. And that no matter what society says, they should love themselves. Which is something we all need to remember, no matter how old we are.



Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved



This is not my typical post, but after so many losses recently, this is my rant/ PSA:




The past year and a half has taught me that nothing lasts forever. You think you have time, but you don’t know when your time – or that of a loved one – is up. Life is precious. Cherish each day. Cherish your loved ones – let them know what they mean to you. Enjoy the sun and the sky and the ocean and the beauty that surrounds us. Stop sweating the petty stuff – it’s all crap. It doesn’t matter in the end. It’s all about love, not stuff, not prestige or money or anything else. Be kind and help whoever you can help. And try to make a difference for the speck of time you’re on this earth. Because it’s over in the blink of an eye.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

The Turning of the Key


Several years ago, I wrote a post titled “Moving On,” about my parents moving from our childhood home to a continuing care community. It was a wonderful move for many reasons, and at the time I wrote that in spite of the move being bittersweet, I was grateful for the fact that my parents were leaving our childhood home for a better life for them.

Little did I know that in just a few short years, we’d lose our mom to the devastating diagnosis of cancer. But we were so glad that our dad had the comfort and support of so many kind people who surrounded him in his relatively new community. We were aware that Dad was having a very rough time without his bride of so many years. And when he had a heart attack earlier this year, we knew the broken heart was literal. What we didn’t expect – not that you can ever expect these things – was that we’d lose Dad, too, just a little over a year after losing Mom.

The loss of both of our parents in such a short period of time has been beyond devastating for both me and my sister. They may have been considered old in years by some, but they were active, vibrant, and youthful, and it’s still hard for all of us to wrap our heads around the fact that they’re both gone.

And then came the emptying out of their home. Every piece of furniture, every article of clothing, every dish, every memory from our childhood needed to be gone through and assigned a category: give away, throw away, donate, or hold onto for dear life. In spite of my current mindset of having to declutter my life, there was no way I was going to leave so much of my parents and their lives to others, without taking those pieces that were so meaningful to me.

Lots of tears have been shed, lots of agonizing over so many things, and full-on  meltdowns over these losses have all been experienced over the past few weeks. And the photographs pose one of the toughest dilemmas. Albums upon albums filled with happy times and long-forgotten memories – what does one do with all those remnants of their – and our – lives?

We also didn’t have the luxury of time, for many reasons. So barely a month after losing Dad, my sister and I made a final trek to our parents’ home to empty out everything that had made it their home. At first, I made it through by attempting to be dispassionate – to distance myself from these “things” and not assign any emotional  value to them. I actually managed to do that with some items. But then I’d get blindsided by something unexpected, and be once again reduced to a puddle of grief.

By the fourth night, it still seemed as if there were mountains of belongings to still get through and bag. My sister and two of her friends had made a trip to start emptying things out several weeks earlier, and she needed to get back home on that fourth day after being gone and working as hard as she had. The furniture was to be picked up the next morning, when I was scheduled to leave. Only half of it had been spoken for – the rest was apparently going to be trashed, which was affecting me deeply. One of my wonderful cousins was going to oversee that part of the process. And I had no one left to ask to take more bags of things to a donation bin. We had received help and generosity from so many friends and family over the past month, how could I ask again? But if I couldn’t ask for help, what would happen to everything left? I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing out things that someone else could use. A wave of helplessness and hopelessness overcame me. I sank down on the floor, completely overwhelmed. And then, I truly believe, my parents stepped in and rescued me.

The first thing was, I suddenly realized there was no way I could leave the next day – I needed one more day in order to hold onto my sanity. So I called the airline and explained my situation. Now you all know how I feel about flying and the whole airline experience. However, the woman on the other end could hear that I was at the end of my rope and she was so compassionate and kind to me, I couldn’t believe it. She told me that they still had me in the system from the bereavement fare of the previous trip, and since this was all still part of the same event, they would NOT charge me a change fee! So I got re-booked to a flight one day later.

Next, I got a call from another amazing cousin who had come earlier to help with her wonderful sister, that she was returning with her son and a truck to take any clothing I had left to the donation bin she had gone to earlier with several other bags of stuff.  That was another lifting of the weight off my heart.

Finally, I walked into the living room to find several people gathered there. One woman had come for a different reason, but asked me about the furniture. I told her which pieces were spoken for, and which ones weren’t. She called her daughter who needed any furniture we had, and that night she and her husband and another friend got all of it out of there – and, they came back the next morning for the bed! So the extra furniture was going to someone who really needed it, where it would again have a good home.

It was tough enough watching everything my parents owned disappear. But the things that were going to help homeless or disadvantaged people, which went to family, or which went to friends, made me happy. Our parents were generous, kind people who also would have been happy to know that their things would now make others happy. Some of the sadness lifted.

All of the lamps were taken by family and friends before the next night, and there are few overhead lights there, so once the sun set, it was pretty dark. And empty, with all the furniture gone. With all the life gone. There were still a few things I needed to go through, to either take or throw out, and I found myself dawdling as I went through everything. I took pictures of the emptiness. I sat on the floor and communed with my parents. I cried again. And finally, I had no excuses left, not to leave. And I left a huge piece of my heart there as I shut the door behind me, and turned the key in the lock for the final time.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved