This morning, I plan to write about health. Knowing that, you may choose to click the magic xanga buttons and find someone who is writing about sports, or sex, or you, but just in case you decide to stay and read on, I will make the whole thing more palatable by digressing a lot — like Sesame Street.

We all know what to do for good health. First, we have to avoid risky behaviors like smoking, using drugs, and driving without seat belts. There are a lot more risky behaviors available now than there used to be, it would seem. I had not donated blood since before AIDS, so when I finally got around to doing so again yesterday, I was surprised by the questions they now ask. It used to be that you had to step on a scale and prove you wieghed over 110 pounds, and maybe they asked if you had syphilis. Now they ask you questions like “Have you ever, even just once, had sex with a man who was born in Africa or visited there between 1977 and 1996?” and “Have you ever, even once, had sex with a man who has traded sex for money or drugs?” And stuff about medical treatments which I can’t remember because I didn’t understand them at the time. But I figured, if I didn’t recognize the words, I probably hadn’t had any such drugs. My mother includes all prescription drugs under “risky behavor,” and intends to live to 130, crowing over her contemporaries who gave in and took them.

And you have to handle stress well, and live a balanced life. On this topic, I have been conversing lately with Matt+ LotsofNumbers (http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=Matt62842003 ) about materialism versus voluntary simplicity. Allow me to share a link with you that I sent to him: http://www.simpleliving.org/catalog/Alternatives.html. This site has a lot of links and readings on spiritual choices that can make all the difference to your stress level and thus your health. A balanced life also includes sleeping enough, by the way, those of you who are reading this early because you stayed up all night.

The third thing you have to do for your health is to exercise. This is really non-optional. The list of good things that regular exercise does for you is so long that even I would not attempt to post it here. When you are young, you can be an utter slug without feeling too very awful, but as you get older, exercise becomes more essential to your well-being. And it is so much easier to get into the habit of exercising when you are young that you ought to just give a present right now to your older self and start exercising that essential 30 minutes a day most days, with weight training 2-3 times a week. Your future self will thank you. You cannot be sure, after all, that you will die young. That was my husband’s plan, but now here he is in sight of a half century, and he not only hasn’t died yet, but hasn’t even come up with a means of doing so. So it is good to have a Plan B, and that should include having begun exercising regularly back when you were young.

The last thing you have to do is eat right. We all also know what that means. While there have been occasional mad notions like all-the-steak-and-butter-you-want, it has been the general consensus for over a century that the healthy things to eat are these five: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, reasonable amounts of lean meats (including fish and chicken), non-fat dairy products, and seasonings other than salt, sugar, and saturated fat. In the days before this was recognized as the healthy way to eat, people didn’t have anything else to eat most of the time anyway, so the question did not arise. However, most of us can look into our kitchens right now (or our dorm fridges or desk drawers or what have you) and find many things not on that list.

Between March and October, having had a stern warning from my doctor, I cleaned up my act as far as my eating habits went. I say I was 90% perfect, and #2 daughter says it was more like 70%, but either way I was pretty good. When I got the results of my blood test last week, I took a healthy eating vacation, which is scheduled to end on Monday, so that I can have some Hallowe’en treats before returning to my attempts at perfection.

The serious attempt at eating perfectly, and the subsequent vacation, have led me to the following observations:

1. The five things we are supposed to eat (see above) are actually quite good, once you get used to eating that way, and if you had nothing else to choose from, you would not feel deprived by only having healthy things to eat.

2. It is very easy to eat unhealthy things when there are lots of them around. In fact, while eating a healthy lunch — say, vegetable soup, a whole-grain roll, broccoli slaw, and an apple — you are likely to get bored and not bother to finish it all. While eating pizza and ice cream and cookies, however, you are likely to eat more than you realize. I don’t know why this is, but I assume it is part of the food manufacturer’s marketing strategy to make all their foods as “more-ish” as possible. This means that we are unlikely to get more niacin than is good for us, but can easily eat more salt and sugar than we should.

Now that we all know what we ought to do for perfect health and happiness ;-), allow me to revisit the question of long sleeves. I mentioned the number of women of my generation who are frustrated by the extra-long sleeves on current knitting patterns. Chanthaboune, a fan of long sleeves, has explained their appeal.She says it much better than I could paraphrase, so here is her comment:

“I am a monster huge fan of the long sleeves. What it does (in my mind at least) is provide the feeling of being cozy while bypassing the oversized sweatshirts and sweaters. So you have a fitted sweater with cozy arms! Also I have tiny, scrawny, ridiculous arms so it is the rough equivalent of bell bottom pants for your arms.”

Now we know.