Your DNA: Life by Destiny and Design

Ever since the Human Genome Project DNA illustrationpublished findings in 2001, I’ve been wondering where this roadmap will lead us. The project was an international, collaborative program with a big goal of complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. All of our genes together are called our “genome.”

The group found that we have 20,500 genes and which mapped out detailed instructions for the development and function of a human being.

Dr. Frances Collins, the director of the project, noted that the genome could be thought of in terms of a book with multiple uses: “It’s a history book – a narrative of the journey of our species through time. It’s a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it’s a transformative textbook of medicine, with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease.”

Over the past dozen years, more and more clinical uses of the information are being discovered. A few examples:

We’ve gone from chromosomal analysis to genetic and genomic testing that will help families more fully understand and nurture their special needs children.

We can analyze whether certain medications will provide the necessary protection for cardiac patients.

Last year, Angelina Jolie underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy since she was a carrier of BRAC1. Her mother died from breast cancer. This particular gene that conferred a 69% risk of Angelina developing breast cancer and a 25% chance for ovarian cancer.

Knowing more about our DNA can help us make decisions. It can provide an approach to disease that is tailored for the individual rather that “one-size-fits-all.”

Some call this “personalized medicine.” Dr. Lee Hood of Seattle, Washington, takes this definition further, calling it P4 Medicine: predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory.

He states “The convergence of systems biology, the digital revolution and consumer-driven healthcare is transforming medicine from its current reactive mode, which is focused on treating disease, to a P4 Medicine mode.”

“P4 Medicine will improve the quality of care delivered to patients through better diagnoses and targeted therapies. These advances facilitate new forms of active participation by patients and consumers in the collection of personal health data that will accelerate discovery science. Soon a virtual data cloud of billions of health-relevant data points will surround each individual. Through P4 Medicine, we will be able to reduce this complex data to simple hypotheses about how to optimize wellness and minimize disease for each individual.”

While all of this fascinates me, I think we can take participatory to a whole new level. While DNA is an instruction manual, the story is far from black and white when we take into account epigenetics.

Epigenetics literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes and how proteins are expressed.

Some scientists feel that what we eat, how we move and what we think exerts between 50-80% of the influence of over which genes and how genes are expressed. Wow… we have lots of responsibility for directing our DNA and designing our best destiny, and living our ideal life!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. How do you optimize your destiny by designing your ideal lifestyle?

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Acne? Rosacea? Wrinkles? How to eat your way… to better skin!

November is barely halfway over, and it’sbeautiful, green salad already been an exciting month for so many reasons. 

One of my major thrills: we added a dietician and lifestyle medicine coach to the Catalyst Medical Center team. I’ve long been talking about the impact of food allergies, food sensitivities and food triggers for a number of conditions including sinusitis, eczema and migraines. It will be great to have a provider who can spend even more time teaching about these issues.

As health care providers, we are finally realizing the importance of nutrition, that food is medicine, for better or worse.

There is a huge connection between what you eat, overall health, and how your skin looks and feels. But unfortunately, there is a ton of misinformation floating around about what “eating your way to better skin” actually entails.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and like any other organ, it needs to be hydrated, nourished and treated with care.

After meeting our fabulous new dietician, I felt inspired to write a few simple guidelines on how to eat your way to clearer, smoother skin.

I hope what I’m about to share helps to clear up a few myths… and hopefully, clear up your complexion, as well!


When you were a teenager, I’ll bet somebody told you that “chocolate causes acne.” Well, not exactly! It depends on the quality of the chocolate (is it organic raw cacao or hyper-processed junk?), how much you’re eating, the way your body produces insulin, and a lot of other factors.

There is evidence, however, to show a connection between excessive sugar consumption and acne. When you eat lots of sugary foods, “Your body responds by cranking out more insulin, which increases the production of skin oils and contributes to the clogging of follicles,” according to Dr. Valori Treloar of WebMD.

But don’t swap your sugary treats for a big block of cheese! Dr. Treloar also says that dairy products can be an issue. “More research is needed, but it may be that the growth hormones naturally found in milk somehow act as acne triggers,” Dr. Treloar reports.

TRY: I ask patients to try organic milk and avoid sugar for a few weeks. If they are still struggling, I suggest they go off dairy completely for 30-60 days to see if they notice a change in their skin quality.

It certainly can’t hurt, and there are so many low-sugar and dairy-free recipes that you can try! A quick web search will give you hundreds of blogs and recipe sites. We have a magazine at the office called Living Without that has great photos and recipes.


Rosacea is a frustrating condition caused by over-dilated blood vessels in the skin. It makes some people look like they are “blushing” constantly. In other people, the symptoms are more dramatic — burst blood vessels that give a spiderweb-like appearance, and even burning or tingling sensations.

Alcohol, caffeinated beverages and spicy foods and seasonings can make Rosacea worse. Some people with Rosacea get “triggered” by foods that are high in Vitamin B3 (niacin)— foods like tuna, chicken, turkey, liver, peanuts, mushrooms and (no! say it ain’t so!) avocado. This vitamin stimulates blood flow to skin, which can be helpful for certain people, but not rosacea patients!

In some instances, simply drinking beverages or eating soup that’s too hot can cause an uncomfortable flare-up. Good rule of thumb: stay away from food that makes you break out into a sweat, either because it’s too spicy, too hot, or both.

TRY: Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet — then experiment with cutting out sources of Vitamin B3, or just eating less of the foods that you suspect might be triggering flare-ups. Kris Carr’s bestselling vegan cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, is filled with over 150 anti-inflammatory recipes… and as the title suggests, it’s a seriously fun, spunky read!


Good news for people who want to minimize wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of aging: all of those avocados that Rosacea-sufferers might have to abstain from eating? They’re for you!

Healthy fats, like those found in almonds, avocados and salmon, are terrific for moisturizing your skin from the inside out.

Foods that are high in antioxidants — like berries and green tea — are a great choice, too, because antioxidant-rich foods promote cell regeneration. New, fresh, healthy skin cells equals a smoother appearance and fewer wrinkles!

TRY: Experimenting with an antioxidant-rich diet. Check out Feed Your Face by Harvard to Hollywood dermatologist Jessica Wu with lots of age- and disease-fighting recipes to play with. Another favorite of mine, the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. And stock up on “good fat” snacks like almonds, walnuts, olives… or make your own flaxseed crackers. Check out recipes on Pinterest!


Every body is different, and we all have slightly different caloric and nutritional needs.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what a “good diet” looks like — and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused about what’s really going to work for you. (Consider this your personal invitation to book a consult with our new dietician… or a nutritional expert near you!)

But regardless of what kinds of skin and health conditions you’re dealing with, I believe author and food researcher Michael Pollack put it best:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

My friend SueAnn Gleason of Conscious Bites Nutrition calls it “Flexitarian” with a focus on eating lots of healthy veggies, but allowing for good quality fish and meat, and a bit of dark chocolate too.

Start with a baseline of simple, unprocessed whole foods…and then experiment by removing potential triggers from your diet to see if you have any special sensitivities that you need to be cautious about.

Keep it simple… and have fun in the kitchen!

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Never stop dreaming about your ideal life.

“Sometimes, we feel like dreaming betrays our kids playing and learning the rulesreality. As if to wish for more makes us ungrateful for what we have. That’s not the case. There is always more. You are capable of holding two states of consciousness at once: presence and longing.”

Danielle LaPorte

For my son Grant’s 7th birthday, I took him and a group of his friends and cousins to TNT Kid’s Fitness, a gigantic indoor playground.

There was a kiddie-friendly rock-climbing wall. A foam pit that you could catapult into, safely. Tons of games and places to run amok, screaming and shouting with glee. The ultimate fantasy-world for little humans!

During the party, a fellow parent pulled me aside to tell me an adorable story.

Apparently her son had bolted out of bed that morning at 6am. His very first words, upon waking, were:


Kids know exactly what makes them happy. They know what they want. There is no such thing as “faking it” in kid-world. They haven’t learned how to lie to themselves.

This is what makes children so gosh-darn frustrating, at times. They know what they want, fervently.

But it is also what makes them so miraculous — and such wonderful teachers.

My son Grant, for example, knows exactly what his “ideal life” would look & feel like.

His “ideal life” would include a daily trip to the playground. Delicious food whenever he is hungry. Playdates with friends. Lots of crayons, pens and empty journals to write in (even though “writing” is still something he’s working on.) Story time. Sponge Bob. Infinite orange smoothies. Hugs. Tickling that always leads to belly laughs for both of us. Oh, and… an army of puppies and kittens.

If Grant had the power — and resources — to create his “ideal life,” exactly to his specifications, I have no doubt that he would! Nothing would stop him from making his dreams a reality. Grant’s “ideal life” might be slightly inappropriate, but I’m inspired by his vision, nonetheless.

He dreams with boldness and unabashed delight. In his mind, there are no restrictions. He is still living in the age of “I course I can!” and “Why not?”

Can the same be said for most grown-ups? For me?

Sadly, I think not.

Most of us stop dreaming about our ideal life, at some point in adulthood.

As Danielle LaPorte describes in the quote at the top of this post, we start feeling “guilty” for wanting something more, something different. Or we get so accustomed to pleasing others that we forget want we actually want. Or we get jaded and cynical. Or we just lose our sense of imagination. We get so busy with the day-to-day that we miss the moments of joy and beauty.

For all of these reasons and many more… we stop dreaming.

But after watching Grant and his fellow dreamers play together at his birthday party, I feel inspired to keep dreaming. Maybe even… dream bigger.

I will remind myself that dreaming for “an even better life” or “an even happier kind of day” doesn’t make me “ungrateful.”

It makes for a playful, creative genius. And each of us

Just like a child.


~ Dr. Sue

P.S. How would a day in your “ideal life”… begin?

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Gold stars. Big hugs. Playdates. What motivated you as a kid? And what motivates you now?

My 7-year-old son, Grant, gets very excited what motivates youabout charts.

Well, one chart in particular — the chart where we record when he has done his chores, finished his homework, or has chosen a smart option (like reading a book instead of watching TV).

Actually he’s really excited about the check marks. The more “checks” on the chart, the sooner he can receive a reward. Sometimes he adds a few checks on his own. For now, I can tell the difference between his and mine.

And Grant is VERY motivated by the possibility of rewards and incentives. I know there are some pros and cons from the parenting perspective, but this seemed a lot better than being ignored.

Watching Grant get outrageously excited about his rapidly-filling-up chart makes me chuckle and think to myself, “If only it were that easy to motivate grown-ups to stay on their best behavior!”

Then again, maybe it is!

The science, technology & productivity website Lifehack has outlined 6 major types of motivation.

Incentives. Money. Vacation time. Luxury treats. Desserts. Special experiences.
Fear. Consequences. Punishment. Late fees. Fines.
Achievement. Competency, then Mastery. Recognition. Praise.
Growth. A yearning for positive change. Upgrades. Refinement. Improvement.
Power. A desire for control, influence, or feeling like you “matter.”
Social. Wanting to “belong.” Wanting to “serve.” Not wanting to be ostracized, left out or shamed.

As the Lifehack journalist writes, “None of these styles of motivation are inherently good or bad.” Just different.

Most of us experience all six types of motivation at various points in our lives, or even throughout the course of a single day… but many of us have one primary type of motivation that is particularly strong and consistent.

Once you know what your primary motivator is, you can tap into it more directly, and make it easier for yourself to stick to new habits.

For example, if you are motivated by Incentives, then saying…

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I can reward myself with a day at the spa!” … would be a powerful motivator. Sign me up for this one!

But if you’re motivated by Power, saying that particular phrase to yourself probably wouldn’t work. Instead, you might say:

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I will have so much more energy and confidence. I’ll be more likely to inspire and influence people at work, or even get a raise and a promotion.”

And if you’re motivated by Achievement, you might want to say:

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I will be able to seriously consider training for a marathon. Completing that marathon would be the ultimate rush.”

Same goal.

Different forms of motivation.

So, what motivated you as a child?

Is it the same type of motivation that drives you, today? I need to ask my team at Catalyst this question too.

By looking at your patterns — the promises you keep, the resolutions you break — stretching all the way back to childhood, you can learn a great deal about how to motivate yourself in the future.

As for me? I’m seeing myself motivated by several of these, and it’s hard to pick my main one. As a kid, I remember earning points in second grade by learning about the Sahara desert, but not wanting to “spend” them on rewards. I wish I could be as careful about my bank account now!


~ Dr. Sue

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Start Now: Why thinking about the New Year in October is a really smart move.

Most of us wait until New Year’s Eve — New years evewhen we’re one or two glasses of champagne deep into the night — to make our New Year’s Resolutions.

In the harsh light of day, the next morning, those big resolutions can feel pretty tough to keep. Football and chili may overtake the first day of the New Year, and it’s hard to be mindful of new intentions.

I love thinking about the future and dreaming about what’s next in life, but I’ve found that when it comes to making resolutions that actually stick, it’s all about…

-    Quiet reflection
-    Advance planning
-    Sane expectations
-    and Tiny habits

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start mapping out my goals for 2015… now! Fall seems to have a focused and productive energy that seems to encourage big questions like “What matters most to me? And how do I want to feel?”

Long before the hectic rush of the holidays is upon us, it time to reflect and plan for success, and to define what that means for you.

Grab a notebook or journal. Mark some recurring dates with yourself in Google calendar. I’m a paper planner fan, and there are some beauties available. My personal favorite, Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Day Planner .

Want to join me?

Here’s a few goals to ponder — based on the most commonly-broken New Year’s Resolutions — plus my tips on how to get started, sooner, and really stick with it:

GOAL: Make Health a Priority.

Weightlifter James Clear puts it best: “Focus on lifestyle, not life-changing.”

As James writes in this brilliant article:

“Losing 50 pounds would be life-changing, drinking 8 glasses of water per day is a new type of lifestyle.

Running a marathon would be life-changing, running 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.

Squatting 100 more pounds would be life-changing, squatting 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.”

Instead of focusing on the gigantic end-goal — “losing 50 pounds” — try focusing on the tiny habits that will get you there — “drinking 8 glasses of water per day.”

Start now, with the tiniest habit imaginable. Then another. And another.

Just imagine beginning the New Year feeling like you’re already in the best shape of your life!

GOAL: Learn Something New.

As a total information and inspiration junkie, I can relate to this desire, big time.
But don’t procrastinate until January 1st to start thinking about what you’d like to learn.

Start now, by signing up for a course at a local college (many colleges have adult education programs for people who just want to stretch their brains, but not necessarily pursue a degree. Don’t wait until your dream class has already filled up!)

Or take a free online class (here’s a list of 1,000 of them!).

Or check out this massive directory of workshops, conferences and festivals, choose one that looks intriguing and sign up… now! You’ll have something special to look forward to, for months and months to come!

GOAL: Travel to New Places.

I always fantasize about taking lots of fun summer trips every year, but I tend to wait until it’s the tail-end of spring to start planning. No longer!

Start now, by blocking out a couple of weeks (or weekends) on your calendar for next year and label them “travel days.”

Even if you don’t make specific plans right now, make a promise to yourself that you won’t fill up those days with work or any other commitments. They are ONLY for travel.

Seeing those clear labels on your calendar will make you less likely to “forget” to travel… and less likely to overcrowd your calendar and run out of time.

GOAL: Get to the Next Level of My Career.

If you want to upgrade your career (or business) next year, start by assembling your dream team, now.

Need a new website? Reach out to a designer that you like and get on their calendar, soon. (The good ones tend to get booked up — fast!).

Need a coach or strategist to help you? Set up consults with a couple people that you like, now. Start early so that you can find the right match.

Need to revamp your resume? Start the process now, so that you’re confident and ready to send it out at the beginning of the New Year (historically, a great season for job-hunting!) instead of procrastinating and then rushing to get your ducks in a row.

GOAL: Spend More Time With Family.

Like traveling, this one is all about blocking out chunks of time — sacred, untouchable time — and making a solemn oath that you won’t fill it up with non-family obligations.

Why not block out one night a week for a home-cooked family dinner? …starting now, not January 1st.

Why not designate every Sunday afternoon as “technology-free time” so that cuddling and conversation and board games can happen, instead.

Instead of trying to pack an uncomfortable amount of “family time” into a hectic holiday season, or postponing quality time until January, you can start… now.

As Tony Robbins says:

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

The sooner you set your goals & resolutions, the sooner you can start taking tiny steps to make them real.

Waiting until New Years Eve won’t make things any easier.

Give yourself a fresh start & a head start… today!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What’s one tiny, positive “upgrade” that you’re ready to make, today?

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

“Why do I want to be healthy?” How to get “emotional” about your wellness goals — and truly commit.

In his groundbreaking book, Start Apple computersWith Why, Simon Sinek urges business owners to uncover their “why” — the mission, the belief system, the deeper motivation — that drives them to do business. If you want the 18-minute version, watch his talk.

When a business has a clear “why” — and expresses that “why” consistently — then people feel invigorated and inspired.

People are no longer just customers, purchasing products & services with a sense of detachment — they become loyal, devoted fans.

They are emotionally invested in THIS particular business, and THIS business alone. They are part of a movement. Part of something that matters.

Apple Computers, for example, has a very clear “why.”

Apple believes that technology should be accessible to everyone, even non-geeks, and that machines should be aesthetically beautiful, not clunky.

Apple believes that with the right laptop and enough creativity, you can do anything. Launch a business. Create a recording studio in your bedroom. Change the world.

Apple customers are loyal, devoted and often fanatical about the company’s products. Not because the products are “the best” in the world (one could argue that they’re not). But because of what the company stands for.

Customers get emotionally invested… not because of “what” Apple makes, but because of “why” Apple exists.

So what does all of this business & technology talk have to do with your health & wellness goals?  A lot.

As a physician — and as a human being who is always striving to get a little healthier — I have learned that the secret to sticking with healthy habits is to get “emotionally invested” in your goals. In other words, you’ve got to “find your why.”

You can begin by asking yourself one question:

“Why do I want to be healthy?”

What’s your “why” when it comes to the way that you eat, sleep, hydrate and take care of your mind, body and spirit? What drives you?

When it comes to my patients, many people think that their “why” is to “look more attractive” or “have better skin.” This is often true, and perfectly reasonable, too.

But there’s often a deeper “why” that they’re not acknowledging… yet.

You’ve got a deeper “why,” too.

For example…

You might want to be healthy because:

1.    You want the energy to be able to play with your kids, instead of saying, “Not today. Mommy is tired.” When you eat poorly, you can’t be the kind of parent you want to be.

2.    You want the mental clarity that’s necessary to serve clients through your business. When you skimp on sleep, you can’t be the kind of service provider you want to be.

3.    You have a cause that you’re trying to promote in the community. You need funding. You need traction. You need others to say “Yes!” to your propositions. When you neglect your health, your light shines less brightly. People are less likely to be inspired by you — and less likely to be inspired by your cause.

4.    You want to live a long, happy, pain-free and positive life. Good health sets you up for more fun and joy and movement as you age.

5.    You want to look great. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting aesthetic results — shiny hair, bright skin, a slimmer body, or smooth, toned legs. But it’s important to dig a bit deeper to discover a “why” that goes beyond the surface level. How does it make you feel?

If you ask yourself, “Why do I want to be healthy?”…and come up with a “why” that’s so powerful, it practically brings you to tears… that’s the one you want to focus on.

Why do YOU want to be healthy?

Ask yourself. Do some reflection. Write down your “why” or list of “why’s.”

Is there a “why” that makes you feel inspired, energized, excited… or even makes you cry?

Circle it. Pin it to your vision board. Repeat it to yourself every day.

That’s the “why” that you need to remember in order to get “emotional” about your wellness goals — and truly commit.

~ Dr. Sue


Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Got a big event in less than 24 hours?

…How to make your skin look amazing (or at least, a lot better!) super fast.

Not long ago, I was chatting on the phogreat skinne with a friend who had a live webTV appearance coming up in less than 24 hours.

She generally has good skin, but lately, it’s been feeling a little dry and uneven, with a wayward pimple or two.

When she asked me, “Is there anything I can do to make my skin look amazing, like… really quickly?”

I thought it over and replied, “Actually, yes!”  I gave her my short list then put my head together with my trusted Catalyst team of aestheticians (skin care specialists) Abbie Boyle, Trisha Desautel, Amber Wogsland and Lindsy Sheeley.

If you’ve got a big event, job interview, hot date or major opportunity coming up in less than 24 hours, here are our expert recommendations for you to get your skin into the best possible condition… fast:

: Hydrate. Drink lots of water to flush out your system and make your skin look as full, smooth and plump as possible.

You can also try a hydration spray for an instant refresher. Evian water makes a canister that spritzes your skin. Jane Iredale makes one with grapefruit peel extract, green tea leaf and vitamin C antioxidants for a quick pick-me-up, and is also a great setting spray for makeup.

: Exercise. Even just a brisk walk around the block will bring a beautiful, healthy flush into your cheeks and improve your circulation—and your confidence! Check out Dr. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language and power poses.

: Get your eyebrows shaped. A good eyebrow shaping — whether it’s tweezing, waxing, sugaring or threading — can change your entire face! For starters, check out the incredible “brow makeovers” from O: The Oprah Magazine. If your eyebrows are very thin, either from over-plucking or just natural genetics, has this tutorial to help you to create a fuller-looking brow. And if you’ve lost the outer part of your brow, consider getting your thyroid levels checked.

: Cool down puffy eyes. You’ve probably heard about using cucumber slices or cold tea bags. Here’s a less messy trick—cold spoons. Put them in the fridge overnight, then use them under your eyes to decrease puffiness.

A high-tech option is the Clarisonic Opal. This little gadget has a soft tip just a little bigger than a pencil eraser with an ultrasonic action. We use it with a dab of cool eye cream to infuse the area around the eyes, which decreases swelling and dark circles, and minimizes fine lines.

: Exfoliate. Use a fine, delicate scrub — like my favorite Finishing Touch from Revision Skincare — to remove the top layer of dead skin cells. This will instantly smooth out & brighten your skin. Take care not to rub too fiercely, though, especially if you have any pimples. You don’t want to aggravate them! You can follow with a few minutes of facial massage to give your skin a healthy glow.

: Shrink those pimples. When celebrities develop pimples (yes, even the stars have bad skin days!) an on-set dermatologist will often administer a small steroid injection directly into the pimple to reduce redness and swelling.

You probably don’t have a live-in dermatologist (if only!) but you can try a do-it-yourself version of this treatment with a small dab of over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Just dab a small, micro-pea-sized amount onto the pimple and let it sink in like a moisturizer. Also try a cold compress to shrink it more.

: The professional touch. For big events — especially if there’s going to be lots of photography or video cameras popping around — I always encourage women to get their makeup applied by a professional. A little bronzing powder adds contour and livens up your coloring to start out, and can be helpful even for the guys.

My aesthetics staff was on site at TEDxFargo doing makeup for the speakers, who shared that it was relaxing and a great confidence booster. They take care of me before photo shoots too! You can also pop into a MAC cosmetics store for a complimentary makeup session, as long as you purchase $50 in products.

Or, go DIY after watching a couple of fun makeup tutorials on YouTube! (This “Picture Perfect Day” tutorial from YouTube superstar Michelle Phan is full of brilliant, simple tips that even non-makeup pros can handle.)

Special occasions are a great excuse to play, pamper yourself, try something new and express your definition of beauty to the fullest.

Ready, set… go!

You won’t believe what a difference 24 hours can make.

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. Do you have any last-minute rituals just before a big event or special occasion?

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Friends, food & glossy fun. Why not… start a magazine club?

A book club.

It seems like such a fabulous idea. magazinesGathering with friends to discuss the great literary classics… or perhaps the latest NY Times bestseller… or the must-read personal development hit of the season.

I have fond memories of my book club in Seattle. I was a surgical resident at the time. I didn’t get to go often and I rarely read the books. And when I when go, I often fell asleep in my chair. But it was so good to be in the presence of normal people with normal lives, that I treasured the times I made it there. The women were sympathetic and didn’t kick me out. Instead they fed me, and cheered my efforts to become a doctor.

That book club is still going strong since the early 1990’s. I remain on the email list, keeping up with the book choices, and seeing friends from the group when I travel to Seattle. Someday, I’ll join them for their annual retreat.

For years, I’ve fantasized about starting — or joining — a book club here in Fargo.

But I’ve realized that with my work schedule, family time and volunteer commitments, life seems even busier than it did when I was a resident! But I miss the connection.

My friend Cris Linnares, once mentioned having a magazine club as a more realistic option, and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since.

Magazines get a bad rap. They’re often considered to be the frivolous, fluffy younger sibling to big, grown-up books. But I disagree! I do love books, but magazines provide a different kind of stimulation… and inspiration.

I turn to books when I want depth, food for thought, or fictional characters that I can fall in love with.

I flip open a magazine for a quick lift, a neat idea, or a sip of visual beauty in the midst of my day.

I’m excited to start a new tradition and host the first annual magazine club at my home this autumn, complete with cozy drinks and baked treats. Everyone is going to bring a big stack of gently used magazines, share a favorite article, then put ‘em in a pile… and swap!

Here are a few of the magazines that I’ll be bringing to the table:

The Intelligent Optimist.

Smart, well-researched stories covering science, innovation and creativity with — you guessed it — an uplifting, positive perspective.

Eating Well.

My go-to choice for delicious, healthy recipes. The photos are always stunning — and their website is a treasure trove of terrific recipes, too.

Edible Seattle.

My dear college friend and Seattle book clubber Heidi Nelson gave me this as a birthday gift. I’ve enjoyed it for years, since I’ve got a nostalgic spot in my heart for the Pacific Northwest despite the traumas of residency.

There are Edible magazines for many US regions, so try to find an edition in a city close to you, because they focus on local, regional produce and recipes. Sadly, Edible Twin Cities ceased publication last year, but it was good while it lasted.

MORE magazine.

A magazine that “celebrates women of style and substance.” I love that they feature models of diverse ages and ethnicities, and feature articles on career topics & personal finance… not just the latest eye shadow trends. (Not that I don’t love a good eye shadow, too!)

Real Simple.

I could just dive into the pages of Real Simple and live there, forever. It’s the only magazine that can make organizing your junk drawer look like a total dream!

O: The Oprah Magazine.

Gotta love Oprah! Her “Favorite Things” and Book Club picks are always fantastic.
And much like MORE, Oprah’s editorial team also intentionally chooses models that reflect a diverse range of body types, sizes, skin tones, cultures and ages.

New Beauty.

This magazine covers all the latest and greatest trends in make-up, skincare, hair treatments, lasers and even surgery. It helps me keep the patient perspective in mind, and I enjoy the tips too!


Their motto? “At home in the modern world.” One day — mark my words! — my home WILL look like the pages of Dwell magazine.


No, it’s not a magazine devoted to celebrating everybody’s favorite trashy pizza franchise!

This style, decor and shopping magazine is bright, playful and filled with fresh ideas. Their “Get To Know” series offers a neat glimpse into the lives (and homes) of artists, designers and other creative spirits.

When my inner entrepreneur needs an info/inspiration fix, I read IncFast Company and Wired magazines. And since women are starting businesses at a record-breaking pace, I think these would be fun to bring into magazine club as well!

Overflowing with too many magazines?

If you’ve got a bit of a magazine fetish, like me, and need to de-clutter a bit, here are 7 places where you can donate used magazines.

Your local library, nursing home, or women’s shelter would love your used magazines. Oh, and your local doctor’s office might want them, too!

Or… you can start a magazine club like me, and then gently encourage (read: force) your guests to take home at least five magazines, each.

Happy reading!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. If you could appear on the cover of any magazine, what would be your dream ‘zine?
Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Daring Greatly, chipping slowly: Lessons from the Crazy Horse Memorial

A few weeks ago, my family and I took a trip Crazy Horse Memorialto the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Grant’s highlight of the trip was definitely the water slide attached to our hotel in Rapid City. I even went out of my comfort zone and did a few slides myself. I enjoyed floating around “The Lazy River” and went against the current to make it not so lazy!    

My personal highlight of the trip was the Crazy Horse Memorial.

If you’re not familiar with this particular memorial, here’s the Cliff Notes version of the story:

In 1948, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear tapped a sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski to undertake a completely “crazy” project:

They wanted to carve a sculpture … out of an entire mountain.

Korczak had worked with Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum for a time. He then became an award-winning sculptor in New York. Chief Standing Bear noted his work and felt that Korczak was the man for the job.

This 563-foot-tall sculpture would be carved to honor Crazy Horse, a hero amongst North American Indians, and to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of his people.

Some people called it art. Some people called it a moving tribute to a great leader. Other people called the idea… insane! But Standing Bear and Korczak were determined to see their vision realized, even if it took multiple lifetimes to complete.

Nearly 70 years later, the carving is still incomplete. It remains, to this day, the largest and most ambitious sculptural project in history. Piece by piece, with precise explosive blasts, the sculpture moves slowly towards completion.

Just before his death in 1982, Korczak’s his final words to his wife were, “You must work on the mountain — but go slowly so you do it right.”

His family continues the project — and the legacy — today. His wife Ruth, died this May, but was actively managing the project along with 7 of her 10 children. We saw several of them attending to various projects the day we were there.

The Memorial Campus has plans for a Native American university, medical school and hospital. There is already a very impressive museum. Summer training programs for Native American students have been active for several years.

The project will not be finished in my lifetime, or even in Grant’s. But one day, thanks to the tireless efforts of an entire community, the dream will become real.

To me, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a testament to the power of personal vision and enterprise, patience, tenacity and a willingness to “make progress” no matter what.

Because of Crazy Horse, I remember that…
1.    You don’t need a bank loan, government funding or a Kickstarter campaign to make a big dream come to life. Chief Henry Standing Bear and Korczak believed that the public would see their vision and support the project, piece by piece, dollar by dollar. They were right.

2.     Great projects take on a life of their own — and the twists and turns can be very surprising. I’m sure Korczak never imagined that his sculpture would become the site of an annual organized hike, a laser light show, a rodeo, or a summer lecture series and tribal dancing events. One project can be the “spark” for a dozen other amazing ideas. You never know what the full impact of your work might be!

3.    Patience and slow, deliberate refinement can be beautiful. Like so many people, I often want things in my life to happen as quickly as possible, but it takes more than a “24-hour bootcamp” or a “6-week online training course” to carve a mountain. It takes decades. It takes devotion. Medicine is my mountain, and as I learn, my body of work becomes more refined. And more helpful, I hope.

4.    You don’t have to ask for permission to begin something amazing. Just dare greatly as Teddy Roosevelt declared in his famous speech and Brenè Brown emphasizes in her best-selling book.

Climb up that mountain, whatever it might be, and start chipping away.

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What is the most ambitious, magnificent project you’ve ever seen? How did it feel, being in the presence of that kind of work?

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment

Tomato Overload! Zucchini Insanity!

*How to keep produce fresh (and use it all up) when you’ve got too much of a good thing.*vegetables

Last night, when I tried to close the door of my fridge… it wouldn’t seal. That’s when I realized: I might have a problem. A produce problem.

My kitchen is bursting with delicious veggies from our Farm In The Dell community garden (next door to our office) and the Bluebird CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) deliveries once a week. I also have a nice little crop of tomatoes from my patio pots.

I’ve been making an effort to do some juicing and a few veggie stir-fries as we savor the last few nights of summer, but… I have to admit: I’m up to my elbows in tomatoes — and I just can’t use them up fast enough.

In a moment of panic, I began researching tips on how to keep produce fresh, longer.

I found some terrific ideas — but my research generated lots of ideas about what to “do” with all that produce, too, besides just try to preserve it.

Got a serious “produce problem,” like me?

Here are seven things to know and do to use up that beautiful, healthy food:

1.    Know your storage basics. Did you know that you should never store fruits and vegetables together, in the same bin? Or that tucking a bunch of bananas in a bowl will accelerate the ripening (and rotting) of everything in close proximity? Who knew? This handy storage guide from will get you up to speed.

2.    Get a BluApple. This little device looks like — you guessed it — a bright blue plastic apple with a little packet inside. When you tuck it in a bowl of produce, it absorbs ethylene gas (a gas that accelerates ripening) and keeps fruits and veggie fresh …  up to three times longer! It’s completely non-toxic and BPA-free, too. And cute!

3.    Check out Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags. I’m usually skeptical of infomercial products, but these really work to keep greens fresh longer. I would purchase them again.

4.    Throw a veggie-swap party. Got a zillion tomatoes, while your neighbor is drowning in summer squash or sweet corn? Host a potluck, have everyone bring their extra produce along, and divvy up the goods so that everyone goes home with a little bit of everything… instead of too much of one thing!

5.    Get blog-spired. When I need a dose of home & cooking inspiration, I always turn to the blogosphere. Michelle from Rosy Blu has a terrific series called “Oops, I Have Too Much!” — “a blog series dedicated to the inevitable abundance of seasonal produce.” Chef Jamie Oliver’s website is another treasure trove of veggie-focused recipes. (He’s got a great collection of How-To Videos, too!)

6.    Remember the Three S’s: Sauces, Soups and Salsas. Three great ways to use up a LOT of produce, quickly, and then freeze it for later. Here are oodles of sauce recipes45 speedy soups and stews from one of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, and dozens of salsa recipes, too. Really pressed for time? My sister-in-law Marcene and step-daughter shared this gem with me: Just rinse your tomatoes and put them whole in a freezer bag. Use as needed to make salsa or pasta sauce.

7.    Give it away. This is a great way to introduce yourself to new neighbors. Non-profit organizations like Ample HarvestSecond Harvest and locally the Great Plains Food Bank accept produce donations and deliver them to thousands of emergency food shelves, homeless shelters, senior community centers and children’s after school programs. If you’re not going to eat it all yourself, don’t that all of that nourishment go to waste.

Happy rinsing, sealing, storing and saucing. And, wish me luck as I try to get that darned fridge door to close!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. Fill in the blank: “I could never possibly have enough ________ in my kitchen.”

Posted in Positively Beautiful | Leave a comment