The Magic of the Bird Feeder

I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.

Kathi Hutton

Watching birds has become part of my morning routine. For me It is a an exercise in being still. I’m not a bird watching nerd – the cardinal, robin, woodpecker and chickadee are the only ones I recognize by name – I just enjoy watching them move.

Birds add sound, color and movement to a stationary house. At my house, there is always action at the bird feeder. I can be in the middle of a conversation, cooking a meal or writing but my attention shifts to the birds outside my kitchen window.

Two of my feeders hang on the backyard deck. One is a cylinder feeder with hot pepper seed. This is a way to entice the birds and keep the squirrels at bay – squirrels dislike the spicy food and birds are quite indifferent to spiciness. They love the mixture of tree nuts, sunflower, peanuts and hot pepper.

These simple, inexpensive structures provide a microcosm of nature right outside the window. I moved recently from a palatial office with a view of Lake Mendota to a cubicle. My patients use the word “dreary” or a similar adjective when describing my new office – but there is one shining light. I have a window which faces a courtyard and I hung a bird feeder from one of the trees. There was reluctance by the birds to enter the dark enclosed courtyard. I had to coax them in by moving the feeder in increments to it’s present spot. The word is out now – I am starting to see more birds lately, dipping in and out. They provide the perfect antidote to the dull and depressing interior.

I have a definite love-hate relationship with birds. The swooping Magpies in Australia scare the crap out of me.


I’m the one with the bike helmet covered in cable ties, even in the off season in Hervey Bay. I won’t ride a bike in Australia without them. Hitchcock’s masterpiece The Birds had such an effect on me that I wrote Alfred Hitchcock a letter, asking about the special effects. He even wrote me back, signed with his iconic signature.

I know that watching the movement and activities of the birds is beneficial to all of us, if we take the time to actually do it. It can lift our spirits in a simple, subtle way. I consider it calming like meditation. Watching birds is proven to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from dementia. A bird feeder is the perfect gift idea for someone who is suffering. After stressing about what to buy for a memory impaired family member, I bought a small bird feeder. This gift has provided hours of multi-sensory joy for her.

I usually wake up to the call of the Mourning Dove, when the clock strikes seven o’clock on my Audubon birdsong clock but today is a rainy Sunday. I’ll wait for the nine o’clock Northern Chickadee.

If you don’t have a bird feeder, get one. Hang it high so it doesn’t attract coyotes. Most importantly, hang it in a spot where you can see it. Take notice. True zen can only be found in nature.

Are You Due For A Tune-Up?

Dr. Annie K’s Spring Sex Tune-up

 

The human body is an absolute wonder. The way it bends and stretches, responds to pain and pleasure, protects us. It is upon us to take the time to honor and respect our bodies – by both daily words of gratitude and royal treatment. Like any intricate machine, our bodies require maintenance.

Here is my proposed sexual health checklist for men and women. My guess is that your doctor isn’t asking these questions (but should).

 

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Stay Young Forever! Who Knew it Would Be So Easy? Dr. Annie K Gives you the Low-Down

Today a sponsored article appeared on my Facebook feed entitled “15 All Natural Ways to Stay Young Forever.” Sponsored by Medical-News.org, it has 3,120 shares and 7,700 comments.

The author is Simi. Just Simi, like Madonna or Cher. A search for his/her bio on medical-news.org came up with nothing. Is the author a robot, a teenager sitting in a cubicle or a true medical professional?

Articles like this infuriate me. They perpetuate a myth that people want to stay young forever AND that if you follow Simi’s recommendations, you will. I conduct scientific research on aging on a daily basis. Spewing this bullshit as science is maddening.

The article was not entirely full of crap. Yes, water, fruits and vegetables are good for you and coconut oil feels great and smells divine. Protect your skin from the sun – really? Tell me something I don’t know.

I have nothing against facial yoga. But claiming “it’s benefits are the same as facelift surgery” may be a reach.

“Sweat is not good for the skin.” Are we worrying that our increasingly sedentary and morbidly obese population is sweating too much? People don’t sweat enough. Sweat rids the body of toxins. It protects the body from overheating like a brilliant homeostatic machine. On the contrary, try to work up a sweat every day.

Sleeping on your back with two pillows is recommended in the article. Actually sleeping with no pillows elongates the neck that is tipped forward most of the day. Benefits of sleeping on the left side are well documented in medical literature for digestion. Sleeping on your back may double the risk of sleep apnea. Just keep it simple and get enough sleep, in any position that’s right for your body.

Running a marathon as a way to stay young forever is an unrealistic goal for the average reader. Just move, every chance you can. Park far away. Do Kegel exercises.

“Staying young involves many things to be achieved but the easiest one is ensuring that you avoid stress.” Even if I could forgive the clumsy syntax, this advice is useless. Who, in the evolution of the animal kingdom, has succeeded in avoiding stress? What matters is how we cope with it.

Shaving made the cut, no pun intended. It “enables the skin to be conspicuous.” Is that really medical news?

The article recommends drinking green tea at night to calm down and improve sleep. Green tea has great health benefits but it contains caffeine and is obviously not a beverage for bedtime. This is health 101 – no caffeine at night.

We live in a youth-obsessed culture that places merit on superficiality and physical attractiveness rather than deeper values like wisdom, experience and graceful aging.  Don’t get sucked in by the promise of a simple fix. Be smart and skeptical. Always check credentials of the author – is this person qualified to write about medicine?

Finally, don’t trust anyone who proposes natural ways to health without mentioning sex. Watch for my upcoming article, Sex and Longevity – How to Make your Heirs Angry.

Not Feeling The Spring Fever? You’re Not Alone.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

For the last three months we have been exposed to cooler temperatures, a decrease in daylight hours and a desire for heavier comfort foods. Now we are noticing subtle changes. Some of us may feel a little buzz – an increase in energy that was lacking in the winter months. Leo Tolstoy called Spring “the time of projects and plans.” There is a lot going on.

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Hiking The Hike: Martin Katz Exposed

Moshe Katz says many people call him lucky. He prefers to see it as blessed. Either way, I have seen plenty of lucky/blessed people that don’t contribute to the world like he does. I call him a Renaissance man.

I’m not sure who gets real close to Moshe, except for family. Despite his dominant public presence, he is also very private. Love and Medicine is going to give it a shot.

Moshe Katz comes from a strong, complicated family. Our families were very close – his parents were at our house the night before he was born. The Katzes moved to Israel in the 1970s. When I went off to Kibbutz Kfar Blum my mom followed me on the plane to say goodbye. She said listen to Lean On Me and lean on the Katzes. I have to smile whenever I hear that song. Fifteen years later, Moshe became the godfather of my firstborn child.

I met Moshe on a chilly winter morning at Yellow Wood, his store in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Walk into that store and you immediately feel better. It is as if bromide is seeping through the vents. On the way to his office we pass two of his business partners (wife Deb and daughter Cyd), and their ridiculously adorable dog, Otis. I tell him this is an edgy blog, that we need to keep things real. What I don’t want is a promo for Moshe or his store. He doesn’t need one.

Moshe has become an iconic figure in Milwaukee. I tell him that many people look at him and want to know his secret. They want what he is having. I get the most unexpected response – he is sincerely surprised to hear this. Of course he is recognized by his big moves – teaching, philanthropy, leadership. He is unaware how much hunger there is to know his little moves.


L+M: People want to know what you have for breakfast. 

MK: Really? I am a vegan. I have been vegan on and off since 1984. Strict for the last 20 years. I won’t eat anything that has a mother or a face.


L+M: What about breakfast? 

MK: I eat fruit, whatever is in season. Citrus in winter, watermelon in summer, apples from my tree in fall.


L+M: Do you drink coffee?

MK: No caffeine. I haven’t even had chocolate for over 15 years!


L+M: Lunch?

MK: Lunch is people time. I am at the Milwaukee Public Market 3-4 times a week. Milwaukee is like one big “Cheers”. I rarely take the expressway downtown; you can’t see anything on the expressway. I take the pretty way.


L+M: What about snacks? And don’t say nuts.

MK: I really like peanut butter. And vegan cupcakes from Comet cafe.


L+M: So you eat sugar?

MK: Ideally I am SOS; no salt, oil or sugar.


L+M: Your favorite drink? 

MK: Water.


L+M: You can’t say water! 

MK: But I really do love water. I drink 2 liters a day, more when I am hiking.


L+M: Tap water?

MK: Most of the time, yes. I can really tell the difference when I don’t drink at least 2 liters, my skin and everything. I lose weight when I drink more water.


L+M: You gotta give me something besides water.

MK: OK. Then there are three things. First, a great wine.


L+M: What is a great wine to you?

MK: A Barolo, Italian. A bold red. Second, Bourbon, Breaking and Entering.


L+M: Ice?

MK: One rock.


L+M: And the third? 

MK: Scotch, with a sweet cherry-oak or port-infused finish.

MK: But I need to say one thing: I don’t drink! I love the cool image of that guy who pours himself a cocktail in front of the fireplace when he gets home. I’m just not that guy. I have a drink maybe 1-2 times a month.


L+M: Any vices?

I’ve had enough vices for a lifetime.


L+M: Besides your children, what are you most proud of? 

MK: The impact I’ve had on people. ‘A teacher affects eternity’.


L+M: What is your biggest fear? 

MK: Losing the ability to do what I love. Early death. Dementia.


L+M: What rattles you?

MK: People who are stupid. I love ignorance but hate stupidity. The pendulums in politics. Immorality. The way we are treating the environment. It is one thing to fuck it up for ourselves, it’s another to fuck up for our children. And anti-Semitism.


L+M: What is your favorite spot on earth?

The Tel Aviv beach at sunset.

Also, Everest Base Camp – there I was five feet ten surrounded by mountains and I felt so humbled and in awe of my surroundings.


L+M: What is your least favorite place?

MK: Metaphysically, I don’t like feeling angry. It is never productive.

MK: Physically, I don’t like big, noisy places. I love visiting my son in NYC, but I don’t like NYC.


L+M: What do you remember from The Big Chill? We watched it so many times in 1984.

MK: The scene when Jeff Goldblum was complaining about the rain and Kevin Kline responded with “Isn’t it nice?”


L+M: I know how much you love to hike. What are your favorite hikes in Milwaukee and Wisconsin? 

MK: Around Beach Drive and a walk over Bridge Lane in Fox Point. I’m also goofy about three legs of the Emerald Necklace aka The Ice Age Trail. Especially the one near Monches and Parnell Tower.


LM: Where is home for you?

MK: Home is the place that Deb and I built.

MK: I also have built a home in this community. I really feel like I have built something.

MK: It’s a real conflict. They say a Jew can only create their own destiny in Israel. If it’s a place you only dream of and you aren’t there it’s not really your place. It’s just a dream.


L+M: Yes, we share that same dilemma. There is nothing like being there. That is when you really feel connected.

L+M: Any final reflections?

MK: Many people say their life could end now, and they’d be ok with that. Not me! I have so much more I want to do. But I can say this, I have had a damn good life.