…comfort zones…

…stepping away from them.

Nuts (film)

Nuts (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re like me, human, you’re a creature of habit. It’s so much easier to stick with something you’ve thought or done a gazillion times, than it is to risk it all to try something unfamiliar. Of course if we’ve no choice, as when something or someone dictates change, then we rise to the occasion. But deciding to take that leap on our own…are you nuts?!? And the older we get the harder it is to…jump off a cliff…even with a parachute! 

200

200 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The oldsters magazine from AARP, spoke to this topic in an article by Ken Budd. “New Adventures, New Risks, New You!” encourages seniors to jump into life without pausing to ensure there’s a safety net. Budd writes

I was struggling to find my purpose. And then a friend gave me some advice: “You only know about yourself when you’re outside your comfort zone.” Without really planning on it, I started volunteering around the world and plunging myself into sometimes scary, always fulfilling experiences. 

Budd goes on to describe his various volunteer escapades, from cooking spaghetti for 42 hungry and eager children in Kenya to “building rock walls in the West Bank or working at a school in China.” Along the way he

was kicked by a horse, scratched by children…lost half a thumbnail after slipping on a slope in the Andes (which felt a bit like an interrogation technique used by secret police)…nearly stepped on a tarantula…forced to drop [his] pants by Israeli security…suffered stomach viruses in China and Kenya…slept on the floor for two weeks in an unfurnished apartment with 18 guys and one bathroom…had a spider bite…the size of a golf ball…

In spite of his trials and tribulations Budd says “And yet thinking about these incidents makes me smile.” The man must’ve lingered in the Kenyan sun too long.

Experts, in this case Susan Biali, a Canadian doctor, wellness expert and life coach, and Cornell University researchers, weighed in on the benefits of risk-taking. According to Biali ” ‘A lot of people see anxiety, fear, and nervousness as a warning that says, “Danger! Danger!” but it’s actually a sign you’re moving forward…’ ”  And the Cornell researchers theorized that of study participants “57 percent…were happier after spending money on an experience instead of on stuff, compared with 34 percent who chose material goods.” The reasoning? We tend to own our experiences whose memories are longer-lasting than an outdated iPhone. Evidently we even tend to appreciate the “lousy experiences.”

It’s no surprise that the experts confirm what we already know in our gut…

…happiness helps us live longer: A study published in 2011 found that happy people were 35 percent less likely to die a premature death than their less content counterparts.

We’ve also been hearing a lot about challenging our brains. The article likens them to gardens for which “new activities are mental manure: the fertilizer for new brain cells.” We’re encouraged to change it up. ” ‘Take a new route to work. Get out of bed on a different side. Brush your teeth with a different hand. It stimulates your brain.’ ”

The experts also assure us more fun if we attempt to break old habits, especially when it comes to long-term relationships.

…a study of married couples in Psychological Science…Spending time together helps, but falling into dreary, moldy-marriage traps–meeting with a tax attorney is not a date night–will not rekindle passion. Try something new!

Budd writes “When my wife and I taught English in Costa Rica, it was exciting to see us escape our usual roles: to watch her play dodgeball and bowl with kids using a tennis ball and soda bottles for pins.” Psychologist Pepper Schwartz explains ” ‘Boredom is the enemy, so creativity is the rejuvenator.’ ” She points to examples of seniors who took a new lease on life…a couple in their 60s who started swapping partners, better known as “swinging” (really?!?)…and another couple who learned aikido, the art of self-defense. Other options include touring exotic locales, or embarking in a joint enterprise, such as a small business or foundation. Schwartz says “try new things and gain new intimacy: ‘Change the mind…and the body follows.’ ”

Finally, Budd recommends we let go of our inhibitions. He strongly recommends we give into our goofball selves.

In Kenya, I tried to say the Swahili word for shared taxi–matatu–instead said matiti, which means…boobs. As in, “Wow, the boobs are nicer here in the city…”

But I came to cherish my stupidity. Every time I felt dumb, I learned something. As Alina Tugend writes in Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong, “the fear of making mistakes is a cudgel that hangs over so many of us,” preventing us from taking risks. So here’s my risk-taking, rut-breaking advice to you: Don’t be bludgeoned by fear. Embrace every opportunity to be a bai chi. [Chinese for “idiot.”]

I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to traipse around the world getting myself into situations that would require all of my 9 lives…were I a cat…and a newborn at that…to survive and live happily-ever-after…let alone to live and tell about my adventures.

I think I’ll take baby steps outside my comfort zone.

  • When I’d prefer to ignore the sunlight peeking from beneath the drawn window shade, I’ll throw back the bed covers and eagerly dive into the day. I’ll will myself to make it to 8:15 exercise class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 
  • When I’d prefer to take our sweet dog for a short walk, I’ll will myself to go the extra mile…literally!
  • When I’d prefer a ginger ale, I’ll will myself to fill up my “tank” with no-calorie…water.
  • When I’d prefer to blog, I’ll will myself to get up off my b–t and do some housekeeping.
  • When I’d prefer to procrastinate with a doctor’s appointment, I’ll will myself to “buck up…and take it like…a man.”
  • When I’d like to sample a savory sweet…a bowl of white rice…handfuls of roasted peanuts…and second helpings of comfort food, I’ll will myself to…zip my lips!
  • And when I’m tempted to let time get away so that the night-owl in me gets the better of the early bird, I’ll will myself to slide under the bedcovers…by 10 p.m. 

Won’t you join me and throw caution to the wind. After all you only live once. So what the heck…go for it!!! Before you know it…

McNinja in mid leap

McNinja in mid leap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…baby steps soon become…tyrannosauras steps…

………hugmamma.   😆

  

interests, so varied

As with the surge in readership that I got from “stumbleupon” traffic, my recent posts “put a ‘face’ on the ‘unknown,’ and to a lesser degree, “an expert, in my opinion,” sent views “through the roof.” Where a day or 2 before, I had reached 3,027 views, 2-3 days after these postings, views are up to 3,470. It’s pretty heady to think that my words can draw so many to want to read what I have to say. I must admit to returning to re-reading what I wrote a number of times, trying to discern what it was I said that might have made such an impression. Whatever it was, I’m humbled to know that I struck a chord. I was moved by comments telling me as much, including one from Janice Langbehn and her children.

When I write about a topic, I am intensely passionate about what I’m saying. My feelings are genuine. Those who know me know that I am candid, only given to expressing my honest beliefs. Sometimes it’s integrity gone amuck. I’m not prone to do “battle” in person because my emotions can tend to twist my tongue, better known as being “tongue-tied.” And so I blog.

As a blogger I can say what I want, in a responsible way. Any writer will tell you that readership is key to sustaining the motivation to continue. I’m no different. When I first started, I thought I’d be content merely floating my “voice” out in the internet universe. I published 38 posts on blogger.com, never knowing if they were read, with the exception of a handful of friends who told me they had. So I went in search of another platform from which to launch my voice, and found Oprah.com. 

For the most part, I was a happy blogger in Oprah’s universe. There I honed my writing skills further, and began learning about the technical details. When that site changed its format to being more about OWN, Oprah’s upcoming, new venture, I gradually ceased blogging. I rediscovered my passion for it after taking a Blogging 101 class with Cat Rambo. The information she shared inspired me to look into WordPress.com.

One of the main things Cat told the 9 or 10 of us in class was that we’d need to write “something of value,” whatever that meant to each of us. A guy wanted to start a small business, an Asian woman wanted to post photographs, an Indian woman was a total novice but wanted to share her thoughts and feelings, another woman works for a nonprofit and was looking to increase its visibility. Cat thought sharing the details of my life experiences was an interesting blog. So I bought several “blogging for dummy” books, including “WordPress.com for dummies,” and proceeded down the path leading to the magical, yet mysterious, kingdom of Oz, or Blog-dom.

So here I am, happily residing in a “cottage” of words, offering shelter by the “side of the road” to passersby in need of a boost, as they continue their journey through life. My interests are so varied, that I am passionate about many things. But the mainstay will always be my compassion for people, especially the downtrodden, and more especially, children. Humor and laughter are also very important to me, and is often reflected in my “tongue-in-cheek” style of writing.

I blog, hoping what I post will be enjoyed, but I don’t write to increase my readership stats. Just as some “stumbleupon” readers have continued life’s journey with me, I would welcome having HRC, Johnny Weir, and AARP devotees along for the “ride” as well. But just as my interests are varied, everyone must pursue whatever catches their fancy.

so go chase some “butterflies,” hugs…hugmamma.

an expert, in my opinion

Since I’ve no other authors on my blog, from time to time I may reprint someone’s opinion other than my own, especially when my thoughts run parallel to his or hers. I’m a member of the AARP, having joined when I was invited some 6 years ago. We all have to place our faith in something, someone; I choose to believe that this organization is working for the overall benefit of people my age. AARP may not serve my specific interest in every instance, but who does? If I’m never served by them, then I can opt to make my voice heard, or opt out. So I share the following, which appeared in the Editorial Section of today’s Wall Street Journal, because I’m in favor of helping ALL seniors. In this economy, we may have bread on the table today, and be standing in the “bread line” tomorrow. So I opt to share my “bread” with the not so blest, now. Someone may share theirs with me, tomorrow. I think it’s called “paying it forward.” Wasn’t there a movie by that name? I think it garnered populous praise.

Obama Care Will Help Most Seniors

“How Seniors Will Pay for Obamacare” by John C. Goodman (op-ed, Sept. 23) provides a grossly misleading analysis of the health-care law’s effect on seniors and the value of Medicare to 45 million older Americans.

Of course, Medicare is not perfect. But the new law significantly improves it, with better benefits for prescription drugs (phasing out the ‘doughnut hole’) and the elimination of co-payments for a range of preventive services and screenings. It also advances high-quality care in traditional Medicare through an array of pilot programs that seek to improve patient safety, care coordination and treatment of chronic illness.

That is the big picture. These improvements can help all seniors, not just those who have opted for the private, government-subsidized plans known as Medicare Advantage. New quality bonuses, which we support, will also reward those Medicare Advantage plans that provide quality care.

Those who share our concern for low-income households should support the improvements to Medicare that help all needy seniors. By strengthening and improving traditional Medicare, we can ensure a more competitive marketplace that offers genuine choice to health-care consumers of all incomes.

No one understands better than AARP–or has worked harder to fix–the gaps in Medicare coverage. Despite widespread misunderstanding, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes major steps to achieve this goal.

John Rother, Executive Vice President, AARP, Washington

for ALL seniors, hugs…hugmamma.

creative passion, “fountain of youth”

I’m living proof of AARP’s recent article GENIUS! Not that I’m a genius, but I can vouch for the fact that “our creative horizons need not narrow with age” as the article states. Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging says “We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older…In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.” So the old adage IS true “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.” Contributing to the discussion is David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, “Genes impact our lives,…but our lives also impact our genes–the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has. …Most of us don’t understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. Not just at age 20 or 40 but well into our elder years. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.”

Sixty-five-year old Mack Orr had been a cotton picker in Mississippi in the 50’s, as well as a heavy-equipment operator when he moved to Memphis in 1965. Along the way he became a husband, father of 4, and the owner of Mack’s Auto Repair. At 45 he “…was listening to the radio in my auto-repair shop,…They were playing an Albert King song–‘Walkin’ the Back Streets and Cryin’–and it sounded real good. …I went down to the pawn shop, got me a guitar and amp, …And I carried that guitar everywhere I went. If I went to work, I carried it with me. If I went fishing, I carried it. I stayed on it day and night.” Within 3 years his hard work got him gigs as a blues guitarist around Memphis. Daddy Mack, as he is known to friends and fans, has since jammed with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones, performed at festivals across America and Europe, and recorded 4 CDs–including Bluesfinger, his latest. Daddy Mack confesses “I never dreamed I’d go to the places I’ve been…”

In the 60’s and 70’s, Judithe Hernandez was known in Los Angeles for her murals. Resettling in Chicago in 1984, marriage, motherhood and a position as a university art instructor sidelined her artwork. Her creative passion took a back seat but she continued to draw, though infrequently, she “…had all these ideas stored away in file drawers–and in my head. And I never let go of the dream that someday I’d come back to it.” At 62, with the end of her marriage and her only child off to college, Hernandez returned to L.A. and resumed her artistic career with renderings of symbol-rich pastel drawings. Evidently she made the right move for in January 2011, Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art will feature her as a solo artist. Hernandez compares herself to an artist years younger “It’s the difference between a sauce you make in five minutes and one that you reduce and reduce and the flavor gets more intense and deeper. You’re left with a smaller amount, but the flavor is amazing.”

Painting literally saved 54-year-old, abstract painter Audrey Phillips. Losing her mother to a brutal murder traumatized Phillips so that in the years that followed she lost her job, her faith, her second marriage. In 2000, a friend with whom she was visiting in New Mexico urged Phillips to start drawing, since she’d been a student of graphic design. “Abruptly, the pictures tumbled forth. The subject: the killer’s face–one version after another in wild, furious, almost brutal renditions. ‘I had been thinking about it a long time,…And it came out with such energy–I probably had 30 pieces of art when I was done. I was like, ‘Thank God that’s out on the page and not inside me anymore!’ ” Phillips, an award-winning abstract artist, living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida confirms that “Painting catapulted me through my final phase of grieving and loss…It basically saved my life.”

According to the article “Of all the qualities that distinguish older artists, perseverance may be the most vital.” In her 9th decade, author Eugenia Lovett West had her first novel, Without Warning, published in 2007 and its sequel, Overkill, came out in 2009. Two more books are in the works. West hopes her story “…inspires older writers to persevere. It’s a blessing to wake up in the morning with the urge to create.”

So here I sit at 12:31 a.m. still typing away at the keyboard, husband snoring in his favorite recliner, with the TV “watching” him, and pets slumbering comfortably nearby. Will I too be allowed to rest, or am I doomed to give voice to the “genius” of my old age without let up?

 “fountain of youth,” may be the death of me yet…hugmamma.

crestor, beware…

For some time now, statins have been touted as an “elixir” for lowering cholesterol. Since February the FDA has also approved their use in helping to “prevent heart disease and stroke in people with normal cholesterol levels.” In a recent AARP article, Dr. Mehmet Oz explains that the decision was a result of a 5-year study of men 50 years and older, and women 60 and older, whose cholesterol was normal but who suffered high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). “People with high levels of CRP have a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, autoimmune disorders, and other maladies.” In the study, those taking the statin Crestor for approximately 2 years were 44% less likely to have heart attacks or strokes, than those who didn’t. Based on this finding, the research ended, and the statin was offered to the remainder of eligible adults.

The FDA’s decision isn’t without controversy. While statins can lower the level of LDL, bad cholesterol, they do little to raise the level of HDL, good cholesterol. Meanwhile they could cause “severe muscle pain and a 9 percent increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

About 10 years ago I was put on the statin Lipitor to lower my cholesterol which stood at 195. Moving to another state 4 years later, I saw another doctor who took me off that statin because my liver enzyme count was slightly elevated. He put me on Crestor instead. Subsequently, I began experiencing an increase in muscle pain. I’m unsure when, but after that I heard on the local news that Asian women were at increased risk of severe muscle inflammation when using Crestor. I mentioned this to my doctor who had no measurable reaction, so I didn’t pursue the matter. As the pain became chronic, my doctor prescribed muscle relaxants which I took periodically. Their only benefit for me was that I got a good night’s sleep, but  awoke in the morning to the same pain.

When I moved back to my permanent home state, I started seeing a female, Asian internist. She too kept me on Crestor, despite my information of its debilitating effects on women of our ethnicity. After a couple of years, I switched to a doctor with whom I could communicate more effectively. 

I found such a physician in General Practitioner Dr. Kinnish, and I’m very fortunate to be under his current care. When I expressed concern that Crestor might be to blame for my ongoing muscle pain, he immediately ordered blood work and insisted I stop taking the statin. Surprised, I didn’t realize muscle pain could be analyzed by drawing a blood sample. When the results came back, Dr. Kinnish was astounded. The normal range for the CK, Serum test is 24-173, mine measured 1228!!! Needless to say, he kept me off Crestor and began re-checking my numbers regularly thereafter. In the ensuing months my levels dropped to 497, rose to 738, dropped to 419 then to 330 and finally to 223. I was headed in the right direction, so the doctor recommended I continue my regimen of healthy eating, exercising, and visiting the chiropractor and massage therapist as needed. I’m due for a follow-up next week, and am keeping my fingers crossed for a good report. (xxxxxxxxxxxxx)

Without the help of drugs, I’m working at reducing my cholesterol the old-fashioned way. Like Kinnish, “my other” doctor, Oz, recommends going back to basics. “Many of my patients have reduced their cholesterol levels (and blood-sugar levels) without the use of drugs by adhering to a diet low in saturated fat and by exercising regularly. …Statins remain a good option for people who, despite a sensible diet and ample exercise, can’t lower their LDL. But statins or no, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to fortify your heart.”

can’t go wrong with 2 great doctors…hugmamma.