Total Memory Makeover


Aging & Attitude

   I thought myself shallow remembering life more by what I wore than people and places; and hesitate to confess longing for clothing and the fond memories surrounding them.

Memories attached to  a sweet sixteen birthday gift given by my grandmother. The glove box embossed with Gimble’s logo, and secured with a gold elastic ribbon tied in a tiny bow that rested in the top corner. I recall peeling back the layered tissue paper to reveal creamy white kid gloves with a real pearl closure; and feeling adult. After a day in the city, I washed the gloves in the bathroom sink by wearing them, rolled the gloves in a towel, and laid them out to dry. In the morning, I finessed the stiff pair of gloves back to elegance.

Younger memories are of a so-soft white rabbit muff, black velvet head-scarf, green coat and matching leggings with zippers near the ankle, that I wore to Sunday mass and on walks to school.

A red and white candy cane striped dress with a red velvet bodice dominates my thoughts of family Christmas gatherings. A Brownie uniform, the sash stiff with sewn on badges, reinforces a childhood relationship with Vicki Love. Shiny patent-leather shoes with heavy metal toe and heel taps dance my feet through lessons. A black herring-bone pencil skirt purchased for 25 cents at John’s Bargain Store brings back fun shopping trips.

Later a royal blue wind-breaker takes me skiing on Windham Mountain in High School and I’ll never forget that pink and white check swim suit with poor boy pants and a zipper up the back that I wore to Puffy’s Pond where I learned to smoke.

Bell-bottom pants introduced me to my college roommate, and a clear plastic bubble umbrella and rain hat are reminders of my first job at The Berlitz School of Languages. Paper underwear; I have yet to meet anyone who remembers them, a throw away item that was short-lived (they ripped easily) but I had a few pair.

Now thanks to Marilu Henner, yes the actress in Taxi, I can free myself from guilt.

Marilu has legitimized this type of recall, defines it primary memory tracking, and believes it is a pathway technique to other memories.  She says, “It could be a sports track, a travel track, relationships, jobs that they’ve had, hairdos. I’ve heard bats even,” that connect you to your past.

She was recently interviewed by Diane Rehm, and discussed her book Total Memory Makeover. Tested and identified as autobiographical by Dr. James McGaugh, Marilu joins a select group of twenty, formed after the television show “60 Minutes” featured his research in 2010.

Autobiographical memory is distinctly different from photographic and Dr. McGaugh says people with autobiographical memory don’t’ simply remember the date Princess Diana died, they remember in detail their life on that day. MRI’s, of this small group of people, show their brains are different in size, shape and conductivity.

This trip to Washington DC for Diana Rehm’s interview, produced a drop down menu of other visits stored in Marilu’s mind by dates, going back to the first, on Saturday, January 18, 1969.

Marilu is smarter than most and has a gift, however, her Dad helped by breaking down the steps to remembering as; anticipation, participation and recollection. After holidays and family occasions they gather for a recollection party, now that sounds like fun. Sure they talked about what Uncle Jim did, but they seared the happening in their mind.

Her advice, “Find your track. It’s like in the jigsaw puzzle of your life, what are those hard-edged pieces to help you make a bigger picture? Or as my brother-in-law said, in the murky forest of your memories, what pebbles have you dropped along the way?”

I am thinking about memories and remembering differently and look forward to reading her book.

I am ready for a memory makeover.

…just saying

Keystone XL Project and A Lesson in Roman Numerals

imagesKeystone XL and A Lesson in Roman Numerals

Aging & Attitude

The Roman numeral X stands for ten, but what about L and the combined XL. I am having a senior moment, cannot remember, and could search on-line but,*Mr. Wonderful is nearby; so I call to him. “What does the Roman numeral XL represent?”

“The Roman Numeral XL?” He asks to be sure.

“Yes, XL. How much is it?”

“Well X equals ten and L equals fifty, so you subtract the smaller number or 50-10=40, XL equals 40. Do you know what 100 is? He is showing off.

Of course I don’t, but attempt to bluff saying, “ LL,” with inflection in my voice.

He corrects me. “No, one hundred is C.” And proceeds to ask, “How about five hundred, what Roman numerals represent five hundred?”

Recalling V is five, I shout back, “CV, no wait, VC. Is it CCCCC?” Hoping one of these answers is correct.

“CCC is three hundred, however the Romans didn’t use more than three letters at a time. D is five hundred, and M is one thousand.” He says quite proudly.

We continue a ping-pong conversation about the Romans and their numerals, Mr. Wonderful showing off his Iona Prep education, me feeling stupid, and hoping there will not be a review test anytime soon.

“Why did you want to know?” He inquires.

“The Keystone XL Project that Obama decided against. I guess it is really the Keystone Forty Project. So you know about job years.” I am hoping he does not.

“Canada’s plan to construct a 1,700 mile oil pipeline to Mexico? Yea, I know about it.  Didn’t Obama cave for the environmentalists?”

“There are environmental concerns but the big issue is job years.” I reply more confident.

“Job years? What about job years, whatever happened to plain old jobs?”

“I’ll get to that. Job years is similar to BOGO and TWO FOR sales, only more confusing. It was on NPR. Diane Rehm’s guest panel had an hour-long discussion that left me perplexed so I went online. According to Wiki Answers, a job year is;  ‘The amount of work equal to the output of one person working for 1 year. If 4 people work on something for 3 months each, the total work was 1 man-year of work.’ Am I giving you a headache?”

“Yes, but look at the source. Are you sure it’s right?” Mr. Wonderful wants to know and continues commenting, “That answer could be from any normal average person who never went to college.”

I defend the information saying, “Or a crazy individual with advanced degrees. Whatever, use that definition and you’ll come up with the numbers talked about on NPR. You could read the transcript from The Diane Rehm Show. Better yet I’ll fill you in.”

Diane Rehm said, “One element that proponents of the Keystone pipeline have pointed to is the number of jobs. I’ve heard anywhere from 2,500 to 50,000, and most temporary jobs. What are the facts, Steve Mufson?” 

Steve Mufson responds, “TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, says this would create 20,000 job years — 13,000 for direct construction jobs and the rest for supply chain jobs. However, what they mean by job years is that if the project takes two years, then that is two job years. So, in fact, we’re really talking about 6,500 construction jobs, which, of course, is — are still — is still a real number of jobs, but not just as many as some of the proponents make it out to be.”

“Back up here, 13,000 years, that’s a mistake Right? A worker is eligible for Social Security before that. It’s crazy, insane.” Mr. Wonderful quips and chuckles.

“Now honey, they’re talking one man. It’s a big project.” I remind him.

My husband summarizes saying, ” Okay, let me get this straight, it would take one man working 13,000 years to complete the Keystone XL project. If you want the project completed in two years, divide 13,000 by 2, and do the math, you need 6,500 men to get the job done.  Well now, that makes perfect sense.”

“Not really, what makes sense is to create 6,500 real jobs in solar and wind construction and deleting email mandatory.” I retort.

“Solar energy and deleting email? This sounds similar to  Christopher Columbus and turkeys.” Mr. Wonderful exclaims sounding testy, and leading me to explain.

“Sort of, servers are needed to store information, generators keep those servers up and running, electricity is required to run the generators and oil is mostly used to create the electricity. Consequently if every American deleted their emails we would save money and we would not need the Keystone XL project, ask any Roman.”

                                                                                      . . . . Just Saying

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of forty years.