Saturday, April 7, 2018

In Defense of Touch

In Defense of Touch

We all need touch, it is essential for human health. It is the first sense to develop in the womb and it is the last of the senses to leave us at the end of life. It is more important than food for a newborn, without it they suffer from failure to thrive. Being held in our mother’s arms, it’s how we feel secure in the world, and is essential to our survival as a social species. Neuroscience has found that oxytocin, the feel good caring hormone, is released when we are touched and that helps regulate the amygdala, the area of the brain that lights up when we are angry. 

Some of us have a license to touch others. Doctors, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists. We are the professionals. We have the training and ability to provide a skilled touch. We can palpate the body, to feel what’s wrong. Touch can even help ta patient prepare for a future painful intervention, such as a dentist using a light touch or vibration on the cheek, before giving a shot. We can soothe pain. We can stimulate circulation of blood and lymph. We can coax a tense muscle to let go. We can encourage an unused muscle back to life. We can calm the nervous system, so a sick child can get some rest.

But everyone can benefit from touch, it’s how we communicate. When words fail us, there is a hug. Touch can be an encouragement of a job well done, a pat on the back. Touch can remind your body of its capacity to heal. It can quiet the voices of anxiety, and let peace develop from a deeper place, and deeper breathing to emerge. Touch allows us to shift gears from fight or flight into a state of rest and digest. To allow our bodies to do the work of healing.

This is such a confusing time for touch in this society. Women are tired of the experience of  unwanted touching, and men are scared and unsure of how to behave. This speaks to the unequal power dynamic of what men need and what women want. Touch parameters vary in different cultures, and even within different families. Some families are more comfortable hugging, and being in close physical contact. Also, personal space may be defined differently depending on the situation. Being on a crowded elevator, or in a social situation, the rules are different. And the work environment has its own stated or unstated rules.

The increased use of computers and screens has further transported us out of the physical realm and into cyber reality, but we are still physical beings who need to be touched. And to be touched with respect and skill. We need to be in charge of our own bodies and boundaries. Skilled touch can help us align our life force to flow freely from our core to our fingertips. We need to encourage healthy safe touch. Our health and happiness depends upon it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


What really nourishes us? I'm not talking about food, but a lovely meal certainly can be nourishing; I'm thinking about experiences or states of being that really nourish or refresh. So much of modern life is stimulating, flashy, and ultimately leaves us hungry, searching for more stimulation, for the next buzz.  I'm thinking about places like the beach, or deep in the woods, where we can connect deeply with our inner selves, and feel a deep connection, a true nourishment. Walking along a sparkling brook, stopping in the sunshine to soak up the moment, that is the kind of experience I look for on the weekend to refresh my spirit, so I can continue through the workweek. What do you find that is truly nourishing?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

schmooze marketing

Schmooze Marketing
Writing a book is kind of like having a child. The gestation period takes as long as it takes, and when it is good and ready, it comes out. The editor is like the midwife or birth coach, helping the author produce healthy offspring. Friends and family, help too, offering encouragement. Maybe self publishing is akin to home birth, offering more control over the process, but with more risk. Traditional publishing might be more like a hospital birth; lucky for those who qualify, but they miss out on some thrills of complete ownership of the process. And there is no greater thrill than the first moment you hold the little darling in your hands, hard or soft cover.
But you have to let go and send your darling into the world. So maybe your first bookstore is like preschool. You get your book in there, marvel to see it on the shelf, and if you are lucky, some stranger buys it and takes it home with them. You check back often to see how it's doing, and then try to figure out ways to let more people know about its existence.
There are a lot of hats to wear as an independent author. First you have to find something to write about, something that will keep your interest for the years it takes to write a book. Then you have to find the time and the discipline to actually write it.  In 2002 I took a long car trip to Palm Springs, and I got the inspiration to write down everything I knew about health in one place. I wrote my book in 45 minute segments over six and a half years. That was as long as I had to myself before my daughter would usually demand my attention. I am a massage therapist and I had a client who had a friend who was an editor. The editor had back pain so we traded massage for editing. We would do an hour of editing and then an hour of massage. She told me about the San Francisco Writers Conference, and we both attended in 2006. It was there that I first found out about BAIPA, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. I was thrilled that there was a way for me to get my book out there, for as an unknown first time author, the odds of getting published seemed mighty slim.
I attended my first BAIPA meeting, and Vickie Weiland was very kind to me, and helped me get my SF business license and my tax resale certificate, so I could be a legitimate small publisher. I decided to go with CreateSpace, a division of Amazon, since they provided the ISBN and access to Amazon, and it seemed easy and user friendly. Aside  from difficulty in uploading the cover, it was pretty easy. And what a thrill it was holding that first proof copy in my hands! Of course I made some rookie mistakes like publishing  in November, so my copyright date was only current for two months. I threw a launch party at UCSF and invited all my colleagues from The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. I catered it with Mediterranean food, fitting with my theme of healthy food.
In January of 2009, I went to the Yoga Journal Conference at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco and I met Neil, the owner of Bookshop West Portal who had a booth selling books at the conference. I asked him if he would carry my book at the conference and he said no, but I could bring the book by the bookstore and leave it there on consignment. My book was so short that  it didn't have a title on the spine, so I brought a small stand so they could display the book face out. They found a little niche for it in their health section, and the book started selling. A high point for me, was the time the manager called me to tell me they had sold out and needed more copies. I was in LA,  outside of the lobby of the Hollywood Hills Hotel, and another guest, smoking a cigarette overheard my conversation. He said, "I'm an author, too! You just sold out your book! I have to have your book!" I took out a copy and asked him his name and signed it for him, and then he said he didn't have any money. He ripped out a blank page from the back of the book and wrote down his address and said he would send me the money. I pondered what to do for a moment, and then I said to him, "I'll make you a deal - I'll give you the book, if you consider quitting smoking." He hesitated, and then agreed. I put the piece of paper in the pocket of my coat, and then I lost the coat on the way back to SF, so I'll never know if he kept his part of the bargain.
I was able to get my book into the gift shops of UCSF, and I think hospital gift shops are a good place to sell books about health. There is an association of hospital gift shops and someday I will contact them. I was able to get my book into a conference in Napa due to some connections at UCSF and the bookstore associated with that conference was that famous bookstore in Corte Madera, so they carried my book for while, but it didn't sell well there.
I came to the point where I realized that to do right by my book, I had to get some help, namely a professional design for the cover. It was at a BAIPA meeting that I saw some promotional materials from a fellow author,  even though his book wasn't finished yet. I really liked the design, and he put me in touch with his designer, and we worked together over the phone and email, and we still have not yet met in person. The other big change I made was to add a couple of chapters to the second edition, so the book would be big enough to have a title on the spine. And I went with Lightning Source as the printing company, instead of CreateSpace because of their distribution with Ingram. It was a much more complex process, as I had to get my own ISBN and I had to purchase new software to get the right kind of PDF that LSI requires. But it has made all the difference, to be able to walk into a bookstore and say to the book buyer you can order my book through Ingram. It also helps to make it returnable, and at full discount.
It was at a BAIPA meting that I heard about The Mechanics Institute LIbrary Book’tober Fest. Authors, independent publishers, independent bookstores, and beer! What could be better? I met the managers of Books,Inc and Green Apple Books. And they both agreed to order my book. At Books,Inc they displayed it on a table face out, and it sold! And then I was able to contact the other Books,Inc stores and say it was selling at Opera Plaza, and some of them also agreed to carry it. It sold out in Burlingame.
And now I’ve come full circle, back to the San Francisco Writers Conference, 2012 volunteering at the BAIPA table, with my independently published book in hand, and selling at bookstores. It all comes back to the personal connections that you make, to the people who help you on your journey, and being able to lend a hand to your fellow authors.
Marcia Degelman’s book, “Explaining Health: what you need to know to stay healthy” is available at Bookshop West Portal, Books,Inc, MT. Zion Gift Shop and Kaiser’s Health Education store, 4141 Geary St. in San Francisco. And through her website and through

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Essential sleep

If there is one universal constant marker for good health, it must be sleep. Everyone needs a good night sleep, and you know it's so when you don't get it. Especially being awakened by someone else's insomnia, jarred out of a deep sleep, and not being able to find your way back.
 A useful imagery I've found is to picture beautiful jelly fish, pulsing and spreading their gossamer tendrils, drifting slowly down into deeper, darker water. Fill your mind with the image, and shut off the chatter, and you can find your way back to the land of nod. Restful, nourishing sleep, helps repair everything.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mid Life Mini Triathlon

Here's a recipe for a mini middle aged triathlon weekend. On Saturday take a one hour walk though the city, using streets you've never been on before. Marvel at the new streetscapes, the lovely houses, the new views. Ideally, during sunset, with a full moon rising. On Sunday take a 45 minute bike ride through the park, followed by a thirty minute swim. Add a ten minute hot tub. Helps if the weather is unseasonably warm, to appreciate the dry spell, before the rains (hopefully) begin.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best Biscotti- Holiday Treat

These are the best biscotti, delicious!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Wet Mix
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup evaporated cane juice (sugar) (Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup date sugar (optional)
2 eggs
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Dry mix
1-1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (Trader Joe's)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 shelled pistachios (or any nuts)

Mix the olive oil and the sugar. Add the eggs one by one. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients. Let stand for 10 minutes, letting the oats soak up moisture.

Spray oil (olive) on a cookie sheet. Form two logs with the dough. Bake 28 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 3/4" slices and place slices one side down on the cookie sheet.
 Lower heat to 325 degrees.
Bake 10 minutes. Remove and turn cookies to the other side and bake 10 more minutes. Let cool and store airtight. Great for dipping into tea! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Moderation in all things

A drink a day linked to healthy aging...

" "strong, consistent evidence" that people who drink in moderation are less likely than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers to experience health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia, says Qi Sun, M.D., the lead author of the study and a nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston."
Another strand of evidence for moderation! Drinking a little alcohol spread over the week, is consistent with less degenerative illnesses. Might it be the inflammation fighting effects of moderate alcohol consumption?  Or the stress- lessening effects of alcohol? Or is it a sign of moderation in other lifestyle choices?