Messengers of Hope

Ray & Juanita Wilson
Elaine Spence
Kim Sutter

    Spreading the Fire

    Ray & Juanita Wilson
    Jake Hinton
    Amy Cayer
    Kim Sutter
    Elaine Spence

      Rekindle Your Romance

      I don’t usually write articles on sparking romance; health tips are kind of my thing.  But it’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.  So to get you ready for February 14th (Yes, it’s that soon, guys.  Trust me, I just googled it.) here are some health tips that will lead a healthier, more fulfilling life, with the bonus of getting your libido back to where you want it.  You won’t find classic quick tips here, like “Plan a date night!”  Just like a relationship, these tips take some time and effort.

      What health article would be complete without a reminder that you probably don’t maintain the healthiest habits?  While there’s no judgment here, you’re probably judging yourself a bit too much.  Poor self-image can be the death knell for your sex life, whereas getting in shape can be just the spark to ignite it.  It can also be an excellent way to deepen your bonds with your partner.  Jogging together (or biking, or swimming, or strolling through the park) can strengthen your emotional connection while also giving each of you a support system to keep you going.  A goal is far easier to accomplish when you have somebody helping you along the way.  Even more so when you feel as though you’re needed to help achieve your partner’s goals.  So instead of exercise becoming the chore that you dread facing, remember that you don’t have to face it alone.  Getting in shape together means sharing time, forming memories that will strengthen your bond, improving your blood flow, heart function and hormone balance, sparking a positive feedback loop in your brain through endorphins that will associate both exercise and your partner with positive feeling, and most of all it will help you feel more positive about your own self-image.  If you were counting, that was seven libido enhancing benefits, all from just exercising together. 

      How you spend your time will either strengthen or diminish your relationship.  Whenever you’re doing something that feels boring, bland, tedious or ordinary in the presence of someone else, our minds naturally begin to associate that person with those feelings.  While you may think you’re just relaxing after a rough week, you and your partner are both building feedback loops that will lead you to believe the other is boring, bland, tedious and ordinary.  Breaking out of this cycle requires action.  Exercising with your partner is a great start, but to really spark that romantic flame, you need to manage the time you spend with each other.   Research shows that couples who engage in activities together increase their satisfaction with their relationships.  Maybe it’s time to finally take that Latin Dance?  But just as important as the time you spend together is the time that you don’t.  When your partner enjoys activities that you do not, it’s not helping your relationship to force yourself to join them, or to force them to join you.  Making an effort to appreciate what your loved one enjoys is crucial, but it’s perfectly fine to have your own friends, activities and adventures apart from them.  Remember, it’s not the quantity of time you spend together, but the quality.  Doing things you don’t enjoy for the sake of your loved one will negatively affect how you feel about them, whether you realize it or not.

      Just as your time spent with a person determines how you feel about them, your time spent in a location- a bedroom, for example- does the same.  If your bedroom is where you watch TV before sleeping, comfort your children after they’ve had a bad dream or curl up under the covers after a rough day, then you’re using it wrong.  Your bedroom should be an island in your home, for you and your partner only.  Lock the children and pets out, move that television to another room and reclaim the space in the name of your relationship.  How you feel about the room is probably already etched into your mind, so take a look around and ask yourself if there’s a way you could spice it up a bit.  A coat of paint and a new bedspread may be just enough to give the room a different feel.  Your bedroom should be a place that puts you at ease, and the décor should be selected with that in mind.  Once you have established that there are only two things that happen in that room, you’ll find that both of them come more easily and naturally.

      Exhaustion can take a terrible toll on your sex life, and while rearranging some furniture should help you sleep better, it won’t always do the job on its own.  Taking naps and eating a high protein/low carb diet can aid in boosting your energy supplies.  If you don’t feel like you have the time for napping, remember that you’re not in this alone.  It takes two to form a couple, and working together as a team is twice as efficient as going it alone.  Schedule your time to include shifts, where one person can manage the children and urgent errands while the other unwinds.  Keep the naps short, though, as oversleeping can make you lethargic, and cause feelings of resentment in your overworked partner.  Make sure that the choirs are divided evenly, and tackle larger tasks together.  The more you think of yourselves as a team, the closer you will grow.

      Never go to bed angry.  That’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard at least a hundred times before.  Unresolved arguments do not make for a better sex life.  Furthermore, bringing those negative emotions into your bedroom is undoing all of the hard work you did in reclaiming that space.  When conflicts arise, they should be hashed out before the end of the day.  Letting them sit and fester overnight, or worse, for several days is poisoning the well of intimacy that you’re trying to build upon.  Address the issues you have with your partner before they’ve had time to take root in your heart.  If talking about your issues only raises an argument, then both people should take a time out.  Go for a walk (don’t drive angry!) or split off into separate rooms, but only after agreeing to readdress the issue that evening, after a predetermined amount of time has passed.  Not every issue can be resolved before bed that same night, but even just understanding that your partner is willing to hear you out and work with you is enough to keep those negative feelings out of your bedroom.  Communication is essential to building trust, and trust is essential to a healthy romance.

      Stress can be a relationship killer. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol, which is great in small doses, but in excess, it suppresses your libido.  Going to bed stressed is just as bad for your relationship as going to bed angry is.  There are many ways to cope with stress, from physical activities like yoga, exercise and screaming into a canyon, to meditation, therapy or relaxation techniques.  The right way to D-Stress (see what I did there?) is the one that works for you.  Men are more prone to use sex as a means of relieving stress, whereas women often have difficulty getting in the mood when they are under stress.  These differences in the genders are not always the case, so learning how your partner copes with stress can eliminate one potential stressor from your life. 

      It’s no secret that what you put in your body affects your mood.  Your sex drive is no exception.  There is little evidence that supports the effectiveness of “aphrodisiacs”, but there’s no harm in trying.  For real aphrodisiacs, however, your focus should be on nutrient rich foods.  Foods that provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals can potentially increase blood flow, provide energy and promote a healthy sex life.  A heart-healthy diet can also increase your libido.  Studies have found a link between high cholesterol and women who have difficulty with arousal. Cholesterol in the arteries decreases blood flow, leading to less sensation, reduces energy, sluggish brain function and difficulties in achieving and maintaining arousal in both genders.  Increasing the fruits and veggies in your diet and reducing animal fats and whole-milk products will help keep that cholesterol in check.  If you’re looking for sense enhancing foods, basil and garlic make great additions to a romantic meal. They stimulate your senses, and garlic contains allicin to help increase blood flow. For dessert,  try consuming dark chocolate.  It has been linked with improved sexual pleasure, which is just icing on the decadent chocolate cake.  An article in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that chocolate releases phenylethylamine and serotonin- producing some aphrodisiac effects. Though other studies report that the aphrodisiac rumors about chocolate are more psychological than biological.  To up the romance to another level, strawberries contain a wealth of vitamins.  Dipping them in that dark chocolate as you feed them to each other has been a staple of a romantic evening for a long time, and for good reason.

      Be careful when it comes to supplementation that advertises drastic improvements to your love life.  As recently as last month, dozens of supplement companies have been cited for spiking their horny goat weed, bee byproducts and other botanicals with Viagra and/or Cialis to give their “supplements” the effects that they claim.  Taking spiked supplements can be deadly, so those of us in the supplement industry have a moral responsibility to only deliver what we advertise.  Sadly, many companies do not take this responsibility seriously, or they are ignorant of the harm that their contaminated products are causing.  To reduce your risk of taking pharmaceuticals without your knowledge, avoid any supplement that makes claims about erectile disfunction.  To date, no botanical or nutrient has been shown to have the same effects as prescription medications.  Stick to safer supplements, such as Ginkgo biloba, a herb believed to aid in combatting sexual dysfunction, particularly in individuals who take anti-depressants.  And ensuring that you’re receiving the proper essential nutrients, particularly B vitamins, is far more effective than the herbal libido enhancers on the market.

      As I mentioned, these tips take some time and effort, but what relationship worth maintaining doesn’t?

      How to Build Emotional Intelligence

      Every year after it gets cold, but before the first snow, preschool teacher Sabrina North asks parents to send in children’s snow clothes. For the next few weeks, she helps 3-year-olds learn how to put on snowsuits, mittens, boots, and hats.

      Again and again and again, she cheerfully deflects the whining and frustration until all the children can do it themselves.

      The practicing pays off once the snow comes, but for North, this isn’t just about teaching independence. She’s teaching emotional intelligence or EQ.


      EQ refers to social and emotional skills, to a person’s capacity for relationships and sensitivity to oneself and others. It’s a bit of a buzzword these days, but the concept of emotional intelligence has been around for decades; anyone who has been in therapy undoubtedly has been exposed to it, and many of us as parents promote it intuitively.

      That may not be enough, however. In our increasingly diverse, adversarial, and violent world, researchers, educators, and psychologists say emotional intelligence is a survival skill, not something that can be left to chance.

      Indeed, they argue that EQ is more important than IQ, in the fact that EQ promotes IQ, and that in the next millennium, people who are low on it will be miserable.

      So North starts with 3-year-olds just as they are beginning to see themselves as part of a larger community.

      “I help them make the connection that persistence leads to competence,” she says. “I tell them, `See what practice did! You can do things for yourself!

      Doesn’t that make you feel good?“

      Therein lies the rub.

      “Feeling good about yourself is the basis for EQ,” says North. “It makes you feel empowered, and the surer you are of yourself, the more you are capable of learning and of giving of yourself.” North is head teacher at the University of Michigan Children’s Center.

      Unlike IQ, there is no way to measure EQ except anecdotally. North, for instance, might tell parents, “Joey is having a hard time playing in a cooperative way,” and offer ways for them to promote cooperation, perhaps by doing a chore together and commenting, “This job was so much more fun doing it together!”

      EQ is often confused with temperament, but temperament is the style of behavior we are born with while EQ is a learned response. Early childhood education consultant Diane Warner of Hartford explains the difference:

      “Temperamental characteristics give you a picture of how a child approaches things slow to warm up or social, intense or laid back but EQ helps you work with those traits so you can better cope with yourself and with the world.”

      For instance, an impulsive child with high EQ is better able to restrain himself than that same child with low EQ; a shy child with high EQ learns to initiate small social forays.

      Laying the Foundation

      The foundation for EQ starts at birth, says child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, professor at George Washington University Medical School:

      • ­Newborns. “When his eyes track you, you know he’s engaged,” says Greenspan. That you tune into him and he tunes into you gives him a secure base to build on.
      • Two to 6 months. Tickles, grins, and other pleasurable interactions woo a baby into feeling trust and intimacy.
      • Four to 10 months. Two-way communication through simple following games (you wave, she waves, you wave back) are how they learn emotional signaling: “I can make Daddy wave!” This is the basis for intellectual skills such as cause and effect and for beginning to read people’s social signals, Greenspan says. His newest book is “Building Healthy Minds” (Perseus).
      • Ten to 18 months. As interactions get purposeful, he takes your hand to walk you to the refrigerator to show he wants juice a sense of self-begins to emerge. The more we point it out, the better: “You wanted juice and you figured out how to tell me! You’re a person who knows how to get what you need.”
      • Eighteen to 30 months. Toddlers act out emotions in play. When you label feelings for her, she can connect them to her own behavior: “That doll is so happy you’re hugging her!”
      • Three years plus. Children are better able to make the link between feelings and ideas when concepts are embedded in an emotional context, says Greenspan.

      Instead of, “Show me the red car,” try, “Which color car do you like better, red or blue? I like red; it’s the color of my favorite dress.”

       The point of all this is for a child’s sense of who she is to include emotional awareness alongside her growing sense of physical and intellectual competence. “It’s far more important than we realize,” he says.

      That’s because emotions can help the learning process or get in its way, says Warner, who presented a seminar on EQ recently at the annual convention of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Consider the child who is bullied at recess. “Once back in class, he may be too angry or upset to focus. He withdraws or acts out, but either way, the afternoon lesson is lost on him,” she says. If somehow his feelings are acknowledged, however, he’s more likely to re-engage.

      Of all the skills necessary for EQ, the ability to delay gratification may be most significant, according to Warner. She cites the Marshmallow Study, in which an examiner puts two marshmallows on a table and tells a 4-year-old she has a choice: She can eat one now or eat both in a few minutes after the tester returns from a quick errand. Then the child is left alone. A third of the children grabbed the marshmallow and ate it. The rest used all kinds of distractions to resist temptation, from covering their eyes to singing.

       In follow-up studies with the same children through high school, there was a distinct difference between them. The marshmallow grabbers had developed into teens who were indecisive, often frustrated, and lacked resilience. The children who had been able to delay gratification coped well with frustration and were self-reliant and resilient. Even more striking were SAT scores: The grabbers’ average scores were 100 points lower on verbal and math.

      “Are there implications for learning?” asks Warner. “You bet. Because EQ skills are not innate. They can be taught.”

      Fostering EQ Skills

      Educational psychologist Anabel Jensen, an associate professor at the College of Notre Dame and president of 6Seconds, a nonprofit that promotes emotional intelligence, singles out three other EQ skills of prime importance:

      • Impulse control. “Tell even a baby that her needs will be met, but not necessarily instantly: `I’m getting you juice, but first I have to go to the bathroom.’ “ With school-age children, purposefully practice delaying gratification: “Have you noticed how impulsive we all are? Let’s see if we can learn something about ourselves: Our family rule is that we can only have soda on Friday. I’m putting soda in the fridge on Monday. Let’s see if we can resist temptation.”
      • Jensen tells children that a pessimist sees a failure as permanent and pervasive and sees himself as powerless; an optimist sees it as temporary and isolated and asks herself, “What can I do about this?” When her 16-year-old niece failed a Spanish test and concluded, with typical teenage hyperbole, that she was a failure in life, Jensen asked her, “Have you had other bad grades in Spanish? No? Then it’s temporary. Are you failing anything else? No? Then it’s isolated. How much did you study? Ten minutes?
        Then you’re not powerless!”
      • Even though children under 7 typically can’t take another person’s perspective, Jensen suggests talking as if they can. Eventually, the messages will get through: “How would you feel if you were playing with a toy and someone grabbed it?”

      By kindergarten, Jensen says you can have conversations with a child to make her emotionally self-aware; for instance, “What do you notice about yourself in a group? Are you someone who jumps right in or likes to watch for a while?” Then help her use that understanding to make conscious decisions about how to behave: “Wouldn’t it be an interesting experiment to go to this birthday party and try acting in a different way, just to see what it would be like?”

      She says people who are coached on emotional awareness in childhood grow up more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and make choices that are responsible and accountable.

      “All in all, it doesn’t just make for better people,” she says. “It makes for a better world.”

      How Parents Can Help

      • Avoid saying such things as “That doesn’t really hurt,” or, “You have no right to be angry!” A child is entitled to any emotion; what she isn’t entitled to is behaving in a way that endangers herself or someone else.
      • Talking about our own feelings is a powerful role model. Use “I” statements when you can: “I feel bad when you speak in a rude tone of voice.”
      • Make expressing feelings easy and fun: Paste emotive faces from a magazine or draw simple ones on a cardboard circle happy, sad, angry, tearful. Attach them to individual popsicle sticks and encourage your children to use them.
      • Validate feelings whenever possible. Not only does that give a child words, but it also helps him feel less alone.
      • Don’t wait for a traumatic event to talk about feelings.

      Original Article

       “It’s Never Too Early To Start Building A Person’s Eq” N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2016 < >.

      Work Hard for the Things You Love

      Dear Vitamist Family,

      It’s already February and as many of you know, my birthday is on the 5th.  It also is the same day our co-founder, my husband Joe, passed away.  It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years.  It feels like yesterday!  His passing affected not only my life, and my family’s lives; it affected this company along with the lives of everyone he came in contact with.

      The passing of my husband, combined with Valentine’s Day right around the corner makes February the month I reflect upon the beauty and mystery of love and romance.  They can be the easiest things in the world, or they can take a world of effort.  Even in those hard times, though, the effort you put in is well worth it.  As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” So very true, and applicable to everything in our lives.

      So work hard at building up your romance, the love you have for your family, and even the love you have for your work.  You won’t have to wait long to see that hard work pay off.

      “For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.”                                                                        -Judy Garland


      From My Heart With LOV – Sari