Praticing Optimism in 2016

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Aging & Attitude

Happy New Year!

      The year 2015 was crappy. Although it is not politically or otherwise correct to say so, it was; and became more crappy and crappier.

     Remember; it started with Tom Brady and an inflated, uninflated or deflated (whatever) football. Then as shock and dismay about Bill Crosby unfolded, we almost forgot about Hillary’s emails.

     Let’s not revisit the numerous mass shootings, police killings, plane crashes, and weather related disasters. You can read about them at abcnews link, factor in any personal crappiness and evaluate the year yourself. For me, it was one of the crappiest.

     Thank goodness Donald Trump added some much needed humor, Prince William and Kate appear to be a happy family, and Pope Francis’s visit to the United States prompted John Boehner to resign.

     Mr. Wonderful and I were asleep by 9:30 pm on New Year’s Eve. We took a 6 am flight home to Florida, having spent Christmas in Albuquerque with our kids and grandkids, and exhausted.

     I slept until 8am the next morning and while enjoying a cup of coffee viewed Dr. Oz. He discussed the glass half-full or half-empty approach to the New Year and a solution for cynicism. “Practicing Optimism,” is the catchy expression he used.

     Although a sunny disposition is to some degree a byproduct of genes and life experience, there is increasing support that thoughts have a cognitive effect on the mind. Specifically, meditation and mindfulness are being studied.

     “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

    In the March 2014 issue/Meditation Research Psychological Science  of Meditation  the following findings are listed from articles:

  • Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
  • Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem
  • The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippopotami and frontal volumes of gray matter
  • Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
  • Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

 

     Sounds promising. Previous research indicating jumping up and down was the way to reactivate a shrinking hippocampus. Now we can achieve the same, if not better, improvement in a prone position.

     Things are looking up. My Christmas cactus is in full bloom and being an optimist, I believe it to be a sign that 2016 will not be as crappy.

. . . . just saying

     These articles  discuss the benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mindfulness-research-2015_567865b6e4b06fa6887e3f1d

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/meditation-apps-inner-peace_n_2900544.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/12/12/how-to-meditate-in-five-m_n_8779824.html

Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus.

 

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Making A List

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Making a list

     You remember the Christmas song about Santa making a list, checking it twice, and finding out who is naughty or nice. I am sure the melody dances through your mind now. It did for me as Gayle King interviewed  BJ Novak, well-known television writer of the show “The Office” and discussed his new app, “The List.” Novak believes since we think in lists, the app is a fun way to express and entertain each other. He is right.

      Gayle King wanted to play and came up with a list of “When Hell Freezes Over.” On the list was to start wearing flats, a cooking segment on CBS, and for Charlie, Norah and herself to test their survival skills on Celebrity Naked and Afraid. I am not familiar with the show. Novak commented,  the app has grown into a form of self-expression and lets us peek into someone’s mind.

My mind jumped in with a list of:

Questions to ask Donald Trump

• How long does it take to do your hairdo?
• What hair spray do you use and do you own the company?
• How would you describe nincompoop?
• What other adjectives can you add to the statement, “Hilary  Clinton was the worst, the worst Secretary of State ever,” to convince voters it is true?

     Then I became bored, started to feel nostalgic and instead opted to make a list of:

Things I miss about Christmas

• Decorating the tree on Christmas Eve
• Moving the tree so missing branches are in the back
• Stringing popcorn and cranberry into garland
• Hanging candy canes on the tree
• The threat of coal in the toe of my stocking
• Taping Christmas Cards around doorways
• Little Christmas
• A Glockenspiel or Angel Carousel
• Carolers singing outside your door
• Retail, and every other store being closed

      Our family decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve singing Christmas Carols. My father secured the tree lights on the branches than all the children selected glass ornaments carefully laid out on the couch to hang on the tree. The final touch, tinsel arranged one strand at a time by Dad with the Glockenspiel spinning in the background. The heat from lit candles produced a single chime as the angles circulated it’s base. I was taken with the sparkle and filled with glee by the bell like sound.31LpBWCtecL

     We did not attend midnight mass because it was at midnight. We went to bed excited about Santa’s visit.

     In the morning, or rather the middle of the night, my brother, Victor, would wake us to report on what Santa had left. He was the one brave enough to risk sneaking downstairs hoping not to be caught by Santa or our parents.

     There were no million flashing lights or hundred dollar gifts under the tree.

. . .  just saying

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/bj-novak-explains-inspiration-behind-the-list-app/BJ Novak

 

 

The Donald Returns America to Greatness

820592a9792b5034dc2223bd0b012dac2eefb03aAging & Attitude

Although surprising, it is true. Donald Trump continues to lead in polls for Republican Presidential candidates.

Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post columnist, referenced last week’s debate as the first in a “political survivor series” and said it looked like a police lineup after a “Mad Men” bachelor party.

She is right. Except for The Donald, we all had hangovers. Trump does not drink, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed lashed out at Megyn Kelly, the morning after.

Kelly opened the debate with a raise your hand question obviously targeted at Trump and later defended her style of questioning Trump that highlighted his derrogative comments about women, as good journalism. I differ.

I don’t dislike The Donald. I read “The Art of the Deal” and watched Celebrity Apprentice until Omarosa was invited back. As a matter of fact, he and I have more than thinning hair in common. We were both born on June 14th, Flag Day, although he is two years older. Like myself, I am sure he imagined the Flags were flown for his birthday. Today I know the difference and can refrain from teasing my hair.

Going into the debate Rand Paul commented on CBS Morning News that Trump’s appeal is because 90% of Americans are dissatisfied with Washington. Do you think? Rand Paul wined; Trump benefited from free Media coverage and called him an empty suit without ideas.

The debate was entertaining as most candidates were on the fence about being politically correct and thankfully went off message. The exchanges between Rand, Trump and Christie were revealing as they interrupted each other and yelled across the stage.

Rand Paul shot himself in the foot with comments about Trump not thinking like a true Republican. Implying the only  way to think if you are Republican is the party’s way. Then insisting ideology trumps national security and that he saw Chris Christie hug the president. Lots of people saw them hug.

Christie aggressively responded to Paul’s philosophy like the fighter he is and consequently now labeled as not presidential. I think the media forgot about Trump’s hair during their exchange.

Jeb Bush announced that he would wear Big Boy pants, but obviously had not gone shopping. I yawned through questions answered by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and cringed when Mike Huckabee talked.

The sleepers of the night were retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Both out shone the favorites by level headed intellectual responses. It was a tease for viewers who thought the media might focus on issues and policy debate.

But no, the big brew-ha-ha is Trump saying Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes” when she asked him inappropriate questions. Now the latest summer sizzler is who should apologize to whom.

Although flags were not flown, Trump declared himself the winner of the debate and egotistically took credit for the soaring numbers that registered close to 70 million viewers. Can anyone argue him wrong?

But let us go back to the issues. So what do we know about the leading candidate? He is rich, really rich and has bad hair.

Trump says he has lots of ideas, good ideas, but is not putting all his cards on the table and looks forward to discussing them at the next debate. I’m guessing these are the things he is tossing about.

 

• Immigration – Negotiated with Iran for Iranians to patrol the Mexican United States Border

• Health Care –  Out source all medical coverage to the Canadians and or Scotland

• Gun Control –  Engage with stock market buddies in a  hostile take-over of Gun Manufacturing Companies

• War on Poverty – Give a tax credit to all employers who pay above minimum wage to employees

• Equal Pay for Women –  Have  Omarosa head  a task force.

• Abortion – Make Planned Parent-Hood a subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company

It is a lot to think about, no wonder there is no time for a presidential hair cut!

. . . . just saying

Beatlemania and Granddading

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Not Getting Younger Series

emersonpioneer888webRemember those transistor radios we had in the early sixties?

We listened to them as teenagers living in Hensonville, New York. The mountains, as my mother fondly called the area. Her family spent summers at the Windham Arms Hotel to escape the city heat, and we later moved to the remote place. When we were lucky enough to get static reception of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or “She Loves You” on a transistor, we would yell for our siblings to run, and listen to the Beatles.

My brother says we got late night windsorselfixwebreception on WKBW, a Buffalo station. Buffalo was 337 miles away.

My transistor was a pastel color, pink or blue. It may have been a Panasonic and probably a gift from my grandmother. It did not work very well and constantly needed the battery replaced.

Fortunately, my older sister received the first Beatles album for her birthday. There was no static and we could sing along as my brother learned to play the guitar.

This memory came to mind when I read the Associated Press headline that Paul McCartney, who is seventy-two and not getting younger, has given up smoking pot. A little ironic now that it is legal in some places.

I fell in love with Paul McCartney on February 9, 1964, when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and for months after, imagined different scenarios of Paul selecting me out of millions of female viewers to be his wife. I’d be visiting NYC and accidentally bump into him on the subway or at the airport. It was always love at first sight!

My pining diminished shortly after, and Paul eventually married Linda Eastman, a Scarsdale, NY girl. The ordinary looking girl was unknown to most of us. We would learn later of her photographic accomplishments. I wonder if she dreamt  she would be the lucky one or if Beatlemania was only for a sixteen year old.
Linda Eastman’s father was Paul McCartney’s lawyer and manager however, they did not meet through him. They met at a photo shoot and married in 1969.

250px-The_Beatles_at_RishikeshWe all assumed the Beatles dabbled with grass, and possibly more, during their Maharisi Mahesh Yogi phase and studying Transcendental Meditation. I never gave much thought to their marijuana habit, and unaware that Paul was arrested in 1974 for possession.

This announcement was more of a public confession. However, McCartney called it a parental decision. But, he has been a parent for over forty years. Well, he is a granddad now, and wants to set a good example. I guess that is what happens when you are not getting any younger.

. . . .  just saying

Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus

I wrote this awhile back but think it belongs inThe Not Getting Younger Series.”

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Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus

 

     “Did you heard about Todd?”

     “Heard what about Todd?”

     “He fell while out walking.”

     “Oh that’s terrible, what happened?”

     “It’s a long story, something to do with the hippocampus.”

     “The hippocampus, what’s that?”

     “You never heard of the hippocampus? It is the part of your brain that remembers things, especially new stuff.  You know, if you move to a new neighborhood and go out for a walk, how to get back home. Where you parked at the mall or the date of a doctor’s appointment.

     Well Todd’s hippocampus is shrinking; just like he used to be six foot one, and is now five ten.  It’s part of the aging process. Remember “The Graduate” and Dustin Hoffman learning that the key to the future was plastics? The hippocampus is now the key to remembering, or so it seems.”

     “Are you sure? I read AARP’s recent article “Age Proof Your Brain,” It lists ten things, and I don’t remember reading about any hippopotamus.”

     “That’s because it’s new information. Perhaps your hippocampus is already damaged. Ever have hypoxia, heart attack, respiratory failure, sleep apnea or almost drown?”

     “I can’t remember.”

     “Don’t look depressed. There are things we can do like jumping up and down for extended periods. There is evidence that Exercise may slow shrinkage of the hippocampus, specifically the part that passes new information into permanent storage.”

     “Enough, tell me about Todd. I’m getting a headache”

     “Well, Todd goes on walks but is gone forever. Apparently, he gets lost in the neighborhood. Marilyn suggested he charge the GPS and take it with him.”

     “Todd’s not old and not forgetful. Who is Marilyn?”

     “Marilyn. . . his wife.”

     “Marilyn isn’t his wife. He’s married to Barbara.”

     “Marilyn’s his wife. Do you want to hear what happened or not? So Todd. . .  by the way he’s almost eighty, goes for his walk and gets lost. After hitting “GO HOME”  on the GPS, gets dizzy from recalculating, falls down and hits his head.  A neighbor called 911. They took him to Emergency, eight stitches and he is still confused.”

     “Todd’s not even fifty. His wife is Barbara, I had them to dinner. What did the doctor say?”

     “Stop using the GPS and see his primary doctor in two weeks. It’s probably his spatial intelligence. There is evidence these GPS systems are effecting everyone’s ability to navigate, not just us Baby Boomers. I’m talking about the Todd and Marilyn Smith on the corner.”

     “Todd doesn’t live on the corner? How will they get to the doctor’s office without the use of a GPS?”

     “Barbara’s thinking of taking a taxi.”

     “You mean Marilyn, right?”

     “Whatever.”                                                                                         

                                                   . . . just saying

Vertigo

Vertigo/The Not Getting Younger Series

   th  I am in Albuquerque visiting my son and have Vertigo. Today it’s not so bad. I just cannot bend over, or rather tilt forward or position my body even on the slightest incline. It is best if I am in a posture perfect position, which is not so bad. At least I am not in bed.
      It started on last Thursday. I woke feeling fine but by 9AM had a severe case of the chills. I was already completely dressed and wearing a sweatshirt but got in bed, and piled on four assorted blankets and comforters. Still ice-cold, I turned on a room space heater to high and fell asleep for four hours. When I got out of bed, I was still fatigued and could not walk straight unless guided by a wall. My head felt too heavy for my body and I was dizzy, very dizzy.

     My son thought it best I visit the emergency room and I could not argue. He took me to the hospital where my daughter-in-law works to be certain I would get the best treatment, and he was right. When he parked by the emergency room entrance I experience a  sense of helplessness like never before, and was thankful my son was at my side. 

     An EKG test ruled out a heart attack. My son spoke to the doctor asking questions, and supplying answers I was too dizzy to ask. It was a complete role reversal and since I am not getting younger graciously accepted his loving care.

     When I flunked the “follow my finger, touch my finger and then your nose test,” and three people rushed to support me after being told to stand and walk, a head scan and MRI were ordered.

     The doctor laughed when I asked if my brain was normal. Then commented that there was nothing acutely wrong. The prognosis was vertigo. I was given a prescription for Meclizine and sent home dizzy and nauseous. 

     The next morning I did an online search and learned vertigo usually is a disorder of the inner ear BPPVBenign positional vertigo exercises | Vertigo …that affects body balance and that specific exercises can help.

     Another cause discussed in the u-tube video by Ninni Girl, was acute vitamin B12 deficiency.  Click skip the advertisement to view the video directly.

     Just when I was getting back on my horse and thought I would be posting consistently this happened, but I am thankful to have an ever so sweet memory of  my son and me.

. . . . just saying

Kayaking and The Speed of Thinking

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 The Not Getting Younger Series

Kayaking and Speed of Thinking

I was unfamiliar with the term speed of thinking until recently. I knew about the speed of lightning and speed-reading but not speed of thinking, and since I am not getting any younger, it grabbed my attention.

All my other body parts are slowing. Unpackaging a sinus tablet can be a lengthy process, and if invited to lunch, might decline if I have a doctor’s appointment the same day. Therefore, it makes sense that thinking be included in the group of what takes longer. After all, when asked the name of the actor in “The Bridges of Madison County,” you know the one who was in that movie about the French chef; I might respond Meryl Streep immediately . . . or the next day. Whether this is a short- term or long-term memory loss is debatable because I have been a Meryl Streep fan forever and instantly recalled her name when the movie, “It’s Complicated” was talked about recently.

Regardless, working memory is the phrase that feels comfortable to me. Although retired I want to keep some part of my brain working.

Minds Refined discusses basic facts of memory and aging, and defines four areas of cognition:

  • Attention (concentration)
  • Working memory (retention)
  • Long-term memory (recollection)
  • Information processing speed (quickness)

Evidently, these skills peak and start to decline early in life. Maridel Reyes says, “Once we hit our late twenties, the aging process begins and we begin losing neurons—the cells that make up the brain and nervous system. By our sixties, our brains have literally begun to shrink. Though these brain changes may sound a bit scary, the process is natural and it happens to everyone.”

“Sound a bit scary and natural!” Obviously, Maridel Reyes is younger than fifty, and has no clue. It does not feel natural to forget where you parked the car. Ask any Baby Boomer. 

However, she does present a good case for understanding that although I told Mr. Wonderful, my husband of forty-three years, I was playing Bunco with Claire on Tuesday; he forgot and purchased a Groupon Coupon to Kayak with Jimmy and Joanne. Then added insult to injury, saying he could not remember our conversation. I was thinking divorce. But apparently it is understandable, our brains are shrinking. So I applied her model to the event.

  • Attention . . . It was “The Masters” weekend. 
  • Working Memory . . . He’s never played Bunco.   
  • Long-term memory . . . He remembers playing Pinochle. 
  • Information processing speed . . . After viewing the offer “FOUR HOUR GUIDED KAYAK TRIP FOR TWO $35 ONE HOUR LEFT,” he hit buy now immediately. 

The good news is, although the aging process cannot be stopped; it can be slowed. We know that a healthy active lifestyle is important. “The key is attention. Attention is the gateway to memory. Memory is not automatic; if it were, our heads would be filled with all kinds of useless information. Rather, good memory takes effort and that effort is best applied by paying attention to what you want to remember.”

I can you hear my mother saying, “PAY ATTENTION! PAY ATTENTION!” As I inform Mr. Wonderful, I’m playing Bunco on Tuesday.

 

. . . . Just Saying

The Not Getting Younger Series/Understanding Nothing

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Understanding Nothing

      The local newspaper, “The News Journal,” informs readers of the number of days left in the year and quotes a notable person on a daily basis. I usually start my day reviewing these tidbits of information. Somehow, the number of days to the year’s end surprises me. Although I should know without checking, since I always look the day before. The quotes vary from familiar and meaningful to humorous and ridiculous.

     On a recent Wednesday, when there were 247 days left in the year, the quote  was by Edward Dahlberg. Initially I was amused and thought he made sense, then perplexed but eventually annoyed.

     Since I am not getting any younger and easily confused, I gave it more thought and made a list of the possibilities.

“It takes a long time to understand nothing.”
By Edward Dahlberg

      • You forgot what you thought you knew, and now understood nothing
      • You never knew enough to understand nothing
      • You are now old enough to understand nothing

     Who was this man giving me a headache? I went online feeling stupid, and searched for an explanation. There was none, but learned Dahlberg, who is frequently quoted, was an accomplished author during the early nineteen hundreds. His words were too obscure to others.

     Getting no satisfaction I turned to the dictionary for a tangible meaning of nothing. Evidently nothing can be a noun, something that is nonexistent or a verb, as in a trivial action. Perhaps I needed more time to think about nothing and went back to doing the laundry. 

     I went to sleep that night ruminating about understanding the absence of meaning in everything.

     On the “246 day left in the year” I awoke smitten with myself, and feeling smarter than Mr. Dahlberg. However, because I was still not getting younger, made a list of other interpretations of the quote, “It takes a long time to understand nothing.”

• Understanding nothing is pointless
• There is nothing to understand
• Move on quickly once you understand nothing

. . . . just saying

PS: Another Dahlberg quote: “Every decision you make is a mistake”

Hobnobbing and Sailing

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Some would say I am MIA, not having published a blog post since January. I apologize. We did move and I could use unpacking and decorating the new hut as an excuse. But the truth is, I am struggling creatively. In the past an obscure word or thought would dance in my head until I put pencil to paper. Recently I have only pondered what to eat for lunch and how to get a better night’s sleep.

This morning however, the word hobnob and music from Gilligan’s Island interrupt my thoughts. While Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning asks questions about Google and mobile websites, I hum  “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?” When Gayle King comments about a lost wedding band returned to a Boston marathoner I blank out, and say hobnob aloud.

You see, I have been hobnobbing. To be more specific, I just returned from a Road Scholar trip called, “Day Sailing for Beginners.” And yes, I feel like I am swaying on land and extremely dizzy when bending over.

Road Scholar educational adventures are conducted by Elderhostel, a not for profit world leader in lifelong learning. The trip description read, “Have you always wanted to experience the freedom and pleasure of sailing? Then this small-group program is for you.” The adventure included five days of sailing in Boca Ciega Bay (St. Petersbury, Florida), three meals a day and lodging for $935. A bargain! I stopped reading and mailed my check. Realizing “learning” to sail, not sailing, was the trip focus, while reviewing the trip itinerary and recommended reading list. I was still game. What the heck, I earned a knot-tying badge as a Brownie and know how to swim.

The small group of nineteen consisted of twelve women and seven men. The refrain “Ear-ly in the morning,” from the song, intrudes my thoughts as I now write, and recall the trip orientation and dinner on Sunday evening.

There were three couples, of which one were in their eighties and married sixty-five years. Seven of the participants were from Florida, four from New York and the rest scattered between Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont.

Not everyone was retired. Their backgrounds were eclectic, varying from kindergarten teacher, geophysicist, law professor, computer programmer, and commercial farmer. Many had traveled extensively and lived in other countries. Several enjoy ballroom dancing. Two disclosed they had built sailboats in their youth then reluctantly admitted the boats sank.

We all lacked sailing experience when we entered the lecture room at Eckerd College,  to met, the lead instructor. He earned his facial wrinkles not by smiling but from numerous sailing certifications and dedication to the sea. Attractive, although, his nose was clearly designed to hold glasses on his face, his full head of white hair streaked with yellow suggested he was older than he looked. He had skinny knees and I speculated his mustache had been penciled on after shaving. He shut the lecture room door quickly, and a no-nonsense approach sprinkled with infinite patience was quietly revealed. He stood alongside a podium, a smart-board marker in his hand and said, “I am Richard, your Captain.”

Learning to sail was a wonderful experience. The learning curve was high however, and on Wednesday, I vowed to either do more new learning or abandon all learning that is new completely when my brain twisted Jibe and Gybing. That night a fellow crewmember stayed up late replacing the words in “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor,” with nautical terminology.

A Brit, she shared her, “Sea Shanty in Honor of the Inestimable Captain Richard,” in the morning, and instructed the group to repeat each line three times then follow with the refrain “Ear-ly in the morning.”

Reef him to the boon vang, til he’s bowlined
Moor him to the jib sheet til he’s cleated
Winch him in the pulpit til he’s port tacked

There are numerous other stanzas calling for wrapping, lashing, tying, and dragging Captain Richard about. The group loved her rendition and ignored the implication of  bondage.

I am still dizzy when bending over and debating if it is a side effect of new learning or a brain tumor. I have doctor’s apppointment next week.

. . . . just saying