like flies buzzing around…inside my brain

A proud mother watches from afar as Prince Wil...

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One more thought before I finally end all discussion about Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It centers upon her devotion to her sons, William and Harry. Not that there ever were any doubts. But first-hand testimony of a heretofore, unheard from source, only strengthens the universally held belief that the Princess of Wales excelled at mothering. 

According to Meredith Etherington-Smith, then marketing director of Christie’s Worldwide, who from September 1996 to July 1997 helped Diana prepare for the sale of her gowns to aid her favorite charities:

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

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The British Royal Family in 1880.

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One thing she did take seriously was her role first as mother to the boys and second, as Meredith put it, as the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century. ‘Her relationship with the boys was patently a wonderful one…She was a very good mother. I expected them to be more protective of her than they were, and they weren’t, they weren’t mewling and puking and clustering round her. They didn’t have a neurotic relationship. It seemed to me to be perfectly healthy and normal and nice and a great tribute of all to Diana and secondly to Charles.’ ‘Constitutional plans–well, she felt her long-distance role was to be the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century, that the influence the Queen Mother had had on her grandchildren in a way, she felt that was the kind of role which in a curious way she had been chosen for and one did feel that there was a bit of divine right entering into this, a little bit of fate. And she felt that William should be a democratic King, that the boys needed to have friends, that they needed to know their generation, they needed to know politicians, not just Tory ones, that they needed to know the Blair children. They needed to be part of contemporary English life, not an English life that was really out of date by the end of the war–and I’m paraphrasing some quite long conversations about this. And her job was to make sure they were released from the glass cage, and that when he did come to the throne, a lot of people would know him, and he wouldn’t be a mystery, wouldn’t be a royal freak, that he would be a person. I think that she very much thought she would be a power behind the throne…Diana emphasized her desire that William should be a ‘very English King‘: she felt that her Spencer blood had a lot to contribute. ‘She felt that because of the spider’s web of marital alliances and blood they (the Royal Family) weren’t English. “I come from an English family,” she had said proudly, and “we (the Spencers) are a lot older than they are.” She was very proud of the Duke of Marlborough, for instance.

The Prince Willam Cup. The trophy that is cont...

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Who is hotter? Prince Harry or Prince William?

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Diana was very anxious that her boys should not become isolated as the previous royal generation had been, as indeed their father had been. That was why she had wanted the boys, and William in particular, to go to Eton because they would have proper friends there and not sycophants, ‘Diana said, “There’s no messing around at Eton about someone being the heir to the throne. If you’re not popular, charming, intelligent, or good at games, you’re not going to rate, are you?” And so William knows a lot of people. And the interesting thing about that she said, “I think they’ll be protection, those friends too. They’ve grown up together and they’ll be protective.” And they are. You don’t see grab shots of William that often, and why? Because his friends don’t utter. She’d thought all this through. That’s what I mean by being smart.’ ‘They had money which they carried and spent and they went shopping. In other words she was trying to provide as normal a life as possible–they could come out from behind the glass window, and that was her great legacy.’

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta in t...

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Princess Diana

 Why would Princess Diana be so forthcoming with Etherington-Smith, you ask? Probably because she was older, very much like her other confidantes, Lady Annabel Goldsmith and Margueritte Littman. “Meredith surmised that Diana was very comfortable in the company of older women. ‘I think possibly, without being too psychotherapeutic about it, because of the lack of a mother…most of her confidantes apart from Rosa Monckton, were actually older women…and I think she felt very comfortable, they weren’t competition, they were fun and she could become slightly girly with them without the baggage of “I’m the most beautiful person in the world”…’ “

Another random, final, or maybe not so final, thought occurred as I lay awake last night, reading I Love You, Ronnie. President Reagan had a very human, extremely sentimental side. Apart from his family and a few close friends of the couple, I’m sure no one suspected what a great romantic he was, and how he could wax so poetic. At the same time, however, his vulnerability as a human being comes through. To know that the man who could dial up a third world war lay bare his soul in love letters to his wife, is hugely touching. I find myself remembering Ronald Reagan as President, but trying to imagine this newly revealed man behind the strong facade. What I picture is someone like my husband, my father-in-law, friends in high corporate positions. Not only them, but husbands and fathers the world over who, to the best of their abilities, care for their families.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan aboard an Ameri...

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The following letter was from a man to his wife, his best friend. It’s a letter any man could’ve written, in fact. This one just happened to be from a President to his First Lady, although at the time he was a working stiff, and she was a housewife.

Ronald Reagan
Pacific Palisades
Thurs. (May 24, 1963)

My darling
     Last night we had our double telephone call and all day (I didn’t work) I’ve been re-writing the story of my life as done by Richard Hubler. Tomorrow I’ll do my last day of location and then I’ll call you and I’ll tell you I love you and I’ll mean it but somehow because of the inhibitions we all have I won’t feel that I’ve expressed all that you really mean to me.
     Whether Mike helps buy his first car or spends the money on sports coats isn’t really important. We both want to get him started on a road that will lead to his being able to provide for himself. In x number of years we’ll face the same problem with The Skipper and somehow we’ll probably find right answers. (Patti is another kind of problem and we’ll do all we can to make that one right, too.) But what is really important is that having fulfilled our responsibilities to our offspring we haven’t been careless with the treasure that is ours–namely what we are to each other.
     Do you know that when you sleep you curl your fists up under your chin and many mornings when it is barely dawn I lie facing you and looking at you until finally I have to touch you ever so lightly so you won’t wake up–but touch you I must or I’ll burst?

Cropped screenshot of Ann Blyth from the trail...

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     Just think: I’ve discovered I can be fond of Ann Blyth because she and her Dr. seem to have something of what we have. Of course it can’t really be as wonderful for them because she isn’t you but still it helps to know there are others who might just possibly know a little about what it’s like to love someone so much that it seems as if I have my hand stretched clear across the mountains and desert until it’s holding your hand there in our room in front of the fireplace.
     Probably this letter will reach you only a few hours before I arrive myself, but not really because right now as I try to say what is in my heart I think my thoughts must be reaching you without waiting for paper and ink and stamps and such. If I ache, it’s because we are apart and yet that can’t be because you are inside and a part of me, so we aren’t really apart at all. Yet I ache but wouldn’t be without the ache, because that would mean being without you and that I can’t be because I love you.

Your Husband

Queen Mother Rose

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…would that all men could, and would, …..bare their souls
…..without flinching ….. at the thought ….. hugmamma.

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where were you…

…when Diana, the Princess of Wales died? I can only think of one other person for whom that question has been asked…John F. Kennedy, our President. I know I was in school when he died, because classes were suspended. Instead we all walked to church to pray for him. In Diana’s case I think I was asleep, and learned with disbelief, about her death early the next morning.

Unlike President Kennedy‘s death of which so much has been written, documented, and analyzed in books and on TV shows, Diana’s death has been treated more gingerly it seems, at least here in the U.S. Either that, or I didn’t bother to read about it in the tabloid magazines because of their tendency to sensationalize the facts to make a profit. I didn’t set out to learn about them even now, they just fell into my lap, by way of Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story

I chose to share this with you because as in life, in death Diana’s beauty remained intact. Her serene appearance belied the inner damage that resulted from the horrific car accident.

It took almost an hour to free Diana from the wrecked car. She appeared to her rescuers to be the least injured of the four: only a slight trickle of blood from mouth and nose indicated that anything was wrong. Yet her internal injuries were life- threatening. After the initial impact the Mercedes had spun away, rotating at high speed before crashing into the tunnel wall on the right. At the first impact Dodi and Diana had been thrown violently forward against the backs of the front seats (not having worn their seat belts), then the rotation of the car had flung them around against the interior. When the Mercedes finally stopped, pointing back towards the mouth of the tunnel, Diana was slumped on the floor, against the back of Rees-Jones‘s seat, facing down the tunnel. Her legs were twisted, one under her, the other on the seat. With her eyes closed and her face undamaged apart from a cut on her forehead, she looked beautiful and as if she were asleep. But the shock of the impact and deceleration on her body had displaced her heart from the left to the right side, severing the pulmonary vein and rupturing the pericardium (the protective sac round the heart), flooding her chest cavity with blood. …

Photo of the Chapel at the Pitié-Salpêtrière H...

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Yet to the first doctor on the scene, Frederic Mailliez, who had been driving through the tunnel in the opposite direction, she ‘looked pretty fine…I thought this woman had a chance.’ He put an oxygen mask over her face while attempting to clear her air passages. When the ambulance arrived, Dr. Jan-Marc Martino, a surgical anesthetist and resuscitation specialist, worked on Diana. Before they could transfer her to the ambulance, she suffered a heart attack. She was given cardiac massage and a respiratory tube was inserted into her mouth. Then she was lifted on to a stretcher and placed in the ambulance which crawled its way with a police escort to La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, stopping once on the way as Diana’s blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. She was put on a ventilator. ‘She was unconscious and under artificial respiration. Her arterial blood pressure was very low but her heart was still beating. X-rays revealed the horrific state of her internal injuries and afterwards she suffered a second heart attack. An incision in her chest revealed that bleeding was coming through a hole in the membrane round her heart and later that her superior left pulmonary vein was torn. Adrenalin was administered and cardiac massage kept her heart going but only just; there was no independent rhythm. Diana was to all intents and purposes already beyond help. Electric-shock therapy was administered, to no effect. At 4 a.m. (3 a.m. British time) on the morning of 31 August, she was pronounced dead.

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...

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And while it was rumored at the time that Diana allegedly spoke a few words to Prince Charles, that was obviously not the case. “When Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters arrived in Paris, they found Diana looking serene and composed in death, wearing Lady Jay’s black cocktail dress and shoes, her hair freshly blow-dried, the rosary which Mother Teresa had given her in her hand. After Charles and her sisters had spent time alone with her, she was placed in a coffin for the return journey.” 

According to those who accompanied the hearse through the streets of Paris, there was an outpouring of support for the People’s Princess.

‘They do it differently in Paris–they applaud. With the coffin, Prince Charles, the President, millions of police by now,…and the vicar (the Rev. Martin Draper), the whole of Paris was applauding…

Sadly Diana’s body was not received with the same honor bestowed upon it by the Parisians and the British masses, when it came to rest in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Good friend, and the woman thought to have been most like a mother to the princess, Lucia Flecha de Lima flew from the U.S., where she lived, to London, upon learning of Diana’s death. To her amazement the coffin lay “…in lonely state, without flowers.”

Flowers for Princess Diana's Funeral

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‘The first day when I arrived at the chapel there was not one single flower on her coffin. Then I said to the chaplain that if he didn’t allow flowers in, I would throw open the doors of the chapel so everyone could see her there without a single flower and all the flowers outside that people had brought. I said, “Tomorrow I’ll come back with my flowers for her.” And I came every day. And from then on I brought flowers, not only mine but from friends and people who knew her. And I went to a flower van outside the Michelin restaurant (Bibendum in the Fulham Road) and he said: “What are they for?” And I told him, and every day after that he insisted I take flowers to her for nothing…’ ‘And they (the flowers) were around her, over her coffin representing the flowers of the world, and I said to Prince Charles, “These flowers represent the people, thousands and millions of flowers all around the world that people want to give to Princess Diana.” I’ve never felt like that in my life. I have experienced personal loss…but the public’s reaction was extraordinary…’

 One other item mentioned in Bradford’s book caught my attention. While Queen Elizabeth seemingly struggled with her decision to recognize Diana’s death with the pomp and circumstance demanded by the people, personally she too had to deal with the passing of her former daughter-in-law, the mother of the queen’s beloved grand-children. Bradford wrote of Dickie Arbiter, the most experienced of royal officers who had worked for the Waleses before their divorce,

The coffin passing through one of the streets.

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Contrary to public perception, the Queen was, Arbiter said, ‘very grief-stricken’ by Diana’s death. ‘On the day of the funeral when the Royal Family came out of Buckingham Palace as the gun carriage carrying Diana’s coffin passed, the Queen bowed. And the only other time that the Queen bows is at the Cenotaph.’

…there are the rumors…there are the myths…and then there’s…the truth…hugmamma.

Rose, Diana Princess of Wales

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…princess diana…england’s rose…

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Cannes film f...

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the last word…diana

President and Mrs Bush greet TRH The Prince of...

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Am almost done reading Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It really does seem to be the definitive last word, with contributions from previously unheard sources. Now that Diana, the Princess of Wales, is no longer at the center of the maelstrom that had become her life, and Prince Charles and Camilla have moved on together into older age, and Prince William has married his Kate, those “in the know” are inclined to come forward with the truth, as they witnessed it.

“The definitive biography of the Princess of Wales. In this authoritative account, Bradford paints a revealing, accurate portrait of a complex woman flawed and adored in equal measure.” —Daily Telegraph

“A very sad story. Bradford tells it eloquently, but it’s her admirable detachment that leaves one pitying all, not one, of the characters involved.” —Antonia Fraser, The Guardian Review

“Forget about tawdry revelations–Bradford takes us to the heart of the People’s Princess, examining her relationships with her staff, friends and family as well as her children, husband, lovers and the royal family. Authoritative and admirably balanced, it draws on new sources and firsthand accounts.” –Tatler

Minefield warning on the Golan Heights, still ...

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I won’t rehash the past, I’ll leave that to your potential to purchase the book, but I did want to call attention to the last charitable cause Diana undertook, which no individual seems desirous of undertaking in the wake of her untimely death years ago. And that is the detonation or better, extinction, of land mines. While those who sought to undermine the Princess of Wales would’ve labeled her a “basket case” or a “nut job” for walking through fields which had been cleared of landmines, there are those who would beg to differ.

According to William Deedes, a traveling companion on Diana’s landmine research trips to Angola and Bosnia

she sought to address herself to various issues in the world which were being neglected. There were millions of them (landmines) scattered round the world. They lurked wherever there had been conflict. A few charitable organisations were engaged in locating and lifting them, but it was discouraging as well as dangerous work because more mines were being constantly laid in the wars bedevilling Africa. The manufacturers of these mines represented a huge vested interest, which reduced the chances…of an international ban…defence forces in Britain, America and much of Europe saw the mines, properly laid and charted, as legitimate means of defence…

…’Nobody took a blind bit of interest in landmines until she (Diana) came along,’…

Deedes went on to say that the journalists who accompanied Diana on these trips were accustomed to “royal visits in daintier surroundings than Angola” and were, therefore, ” ‘dismayed’ by the state of the capital, Luanda, with stinking rubbish piled high in the hot streets.

 Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, a young, veteran war reporter cynical of Diana’s efforts there, had a change of heart after witnessing her work firsthand. “She was impressed: despite the heat and the smells Diana had come to work and work she did. Angola, said Lamb, was one of the few remaining places in the world where most people had no idea who she was, and therefore it was all the more remarkable to see the effect she had on the amputees she went among. ‘The Red Cross whisked us from one hospital to the next,’ Lamb wrote,…”

Nelson Mandela.

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each with ever more horrific scenes of skeletal figures with missing arms, missing legs, and blown off heads–victims of some of the 16m landmines scattered round the country. Many of the injuries were so gruesome I could not bear to look, despite years of Third World reporting. But Diana never turned her head away. Instead, she had something I’d only ever seen before in Nelson Mandela–a kind of aura that made people want to be with her, and a completely natural, straight-from-the-heart sense of how to bring hope to those who seemed to us to have little to live for.

Her cynicism ” ‘wiped out’,” Lamb went on to say ” ‘That Lady-with-the-Lamp performance wasn’t just for the cameras,’ “

Once, at a hospital in Huambo when the photographers had all flown back to their air-conditioned hotels to wire their pictures, I watched Diana, unaware that any journalists were still present, sit and hold the hand of Helena Ussova, a seven-year-old who’d had her intestines blown to pieces by a mine. For what seemed an age the pair just sat, no words needed. When Diana finally left, the young girl struggled through her pain to ask me if the beautiful lady was an angel…At the end of the Angola trip Diana said that the lasting image she’d take away was of that terribly ill young girl.

Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute

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…one for the ages…diana…the people’s princess…hugmamma.

 

 

something in common…an uncommon love affair

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

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I’m in the process of reading I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, and I must admit to loving it. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be interested in their relationship. Mostly because I have never, ever been a fan of hers. Silly reason being I always thought her head was too large for her body. Seeing the couple side-by-side only confirmed my opinion. I was always gaga about Reagan’s Greek god, good looks. As an actress, Nancy Davis had a pretty face in a plain sort of way, but it was larger than his, larger than anyone’s. But my opinion softened the more I glimpsed of her as First Lady. I’m certain her hairstyle did much to downplay the size of her head. In fact I thought she was very attractive while living in the White House. And now I know why. Nancy was radiant because of her all-consuming love for her husband.

Looking back now, I still can’t define what it was about Ronnie that made him seem so very perfect to me. I think we were just right for each other. And as the evening went on, I was more and more convinced. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t like any other actor I knew–or anybody else in the movie business. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk about his movies. He talked about lots of things, but not about “my next picture, my last picture…” He was a Civil War buff, loved horses, and knew a lot about wine. In fact, he had a broad knowledge of a lot of different things. I loved to listen to him talk. I loved his sense of humor. I saw it clearly that very first night: He was everything that I wanted.

 Oddly enough I can relate to how Nancy Reagan felt. I met my husband when I was 17, and he was 18. I think it was “love at first sight” for both of us. Or maybe it was passion. Whatever the case, it seemed we were both hit by lightning when our eyes met.

I was a second semester freshman at the University of Hawaii, while my future husband was attending a small Catholic college nearby. Having returned from San Francisco a week earlier where he had been in a seminary, studying to be a priest, he was now one of many available “fish” in the sea. We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. She and I shared a class at the University; he’d known her in elementary school. The party was in full swing when he rang the doorbell. When the hostess opened the door, all eyes were riveted upon the tall, dark, handsome guy standing there. If I’d have been a fly on the wall, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed all the girls eyes pop out of their sockets, and their mouths drop down to their chests, including mine! A huge Elvis fan, to me the guy in the doorway could’ve passed as a double.

I was introduced, as were all the other girls. But unlike most of them I was certain I didn’t stand a chance. Why? I’ve always had this perception that part-White, part-Asian girls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still do. My husband is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese. So of course he represented my viewpoint as it pertains to men. Naturally I assumed he and the girls with similar pedigree would go off and make beautiful music together. You can imagine my shock, and delight, when it was me he pursued! My best friend at the time watched with me, as he made his way from bar stool to bar stool to bar stool, until he was sitting right alongside me. The sizzles went right through me! I’m certain I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, and I know I must’ve been grinning from ear to ear. I had only thought to make him comfortable when we first met, with my unflinching gift for blah, blah, blah. Well it seems I charmed the pants off my future husband from the get-go. And the rest is history, as they say.

Who would’ve thought that Nancy Reagan and I were sisters beneath the skin? Or in matters of the heart? Even as it applied to outsiders who seemed intent upon coming between her and her man. While we dated, and throughout our marriage, women seemed attracted to my husband. I could only wonder when a realtor asked me how it was he married me, or when a friend let me know that she was next in line for him, or when a sister-in-law teased that if she’d met him first, my husband would’ve married her. Then there were the sales women who lined up to kiss him on his birthday when he was in his early 20s, and a woman who offered her phone number should he ever visit her hometown, Chicago.

While in the White House, Nancy Reagan was unattractively depicted as being overly protective of the President. At the time I was probably swayed by the media to agree. But in light of what I’ve read, I give her credit for having the confidence and obvious self-esteem to stand up to the criticism, or ignore it altogether. I had neither, and so I felt like a doormat as women left their off-putting remarks and actions imprinted upon my fragile psyche. But like the Reagans, my husband and I have weathered the years like 2 buoys bobbing up and down in rough seas, or like 2 seagulls sitting atop the glassy surface of calm waters.

Of course none of us are saints, even though I called my husband one during one of our first arguments as a married couple.  With tears still glistening in his eyes he told me how hurt he felt when I had yelled “Do you know how hard it is living with a saint?” I promised never to say such a thing again. But I’m sure I failed to honor my word, at least once or twice thereafter. Any woman who’s lived with an ex-seminarian knows what I mean. When we’d argue, I’d be on both sides of the fence. I’d be just as vociferous about his inability to comprehend my woman’s needs, as I was about fighting for my rights as an equal partner. The nuns did a great job instilling guilt into my moral fiber. I’m still picking off the leftover lint to this day.

It came as no surprise that the Reagans were like other married folk. They didn’t always sail the ocean blue without so much as a white cap.

Like any other couple, we didn’t agree on everything, of course. But we never really argued. We worked on things. And I think that’s why, beyond our love for each other, our marriage has always been so happy. What we felt was right out there, just as it is the letters.

In response to a letter from a bride asking for tips towards succeeding in her marriage, Nancy wrote:

I’ve been very lucky. However, I don’t ever remember once sitting down and mapping out a blueprint. It just became “we” instead of “I” very naturally and easily. And you live as you never have before, despite problems, separations and conflicts. I suppose mainly you have to be willing to want to give.

It’s not always 50-50. Sometimes one partner gives 90 percent but then sometimes the other one does, so it all evens out. It’s not always easy, it’s something you have to work at, and I don’t think many young people realize that today. But the rewards are great. I can’t remember what my life was like before, and I can’t imagine not being married to Ronnie. When two people really love each other they help each other stay alive and grow. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to become a complete person for the first time. I suppose it boils down to being willing to try to understand, to give of yourself, to be supportive and not to let the sun go down on an argument.

I hope that yours will be a happy road ahead. I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit, and of course, I can only speak for myself. However, when I married, my life took on an added meaning and depth and truly began. I’m sure yours will too.

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself. And like Nancy to this day I dread my husband’s business trips. In my 20s I would cry the entire week before he left. I no longer succumb to youthful self-pity, but I miss my husband’s presence. He likewise confesses to being unable to sleep when he’s not nestled comfortably in his own bed, with me by his side.

When Ronnie traveled now, I missed the little things most of all–the ways he loved and cared for me, how he would cover my shoulder with the blanket every night before we went to sleep, how we always slept on the same sides of the bed–him on the left, and me on the right–how we had breakfast on trays in bed together on weekends, which we started doing in our new house in the Palisades. I hated it even more then, when he went away. No matter how necessary it was for his work and the family, I never got used to it.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s. Those of you who’ve been reading hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul since the beginning of time, know that I’m proactive in my efforts to battle the disease which had my mom in its iron grips for nearly a decade before she died. Knowing of the Reagan’s devotion to one another over the course of 50 some years, I have great empathy for the loss she suffered when Alzheimer’s made off with her husband. All who have become one in body and spirit with their partner, would feel similarly. But thanks to Ronald Reagan’s propensity for writing, his presence lingered on in his love letters to Nancy.

President Ronald Reagan cutting in on Nancy Re...

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When Ronnie and I were married, on March 4, 1952, I had of course no idea what the future would hold for us. I only knew that I loved Ronald Reagan, and being his wife was then, as it is today, the most important thing in the world for me. “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan,” I said some years ago, and I also said, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” Those statements, for which I was criticized back then are just as true for me today as they were five decades ago–despite Alzheimer’s, aging, and all the things that have happened to us. As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more. In fact, they are a kind of lifeline–preserving the past, Ronnie’s wonderful voice and humor, his character, and his special way of seeing things and expressing himself. As they bring back Ronnie in his own words they help me go on into the future. Many people have said to me after reading I Love You, Ronnie , “I had no idea Ronald Reagan was like that.” But I of course always knew, and I treasure these letters especially because they bring back the Ronnie I have always loved.

The inevitable, final parting awaits all of us. Perhaps it need not be without its own happy ending, “a la” Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

…as I reflect some more on the life Ronnie and I have shared, I would add that saying how much you love each other–to each other and also in letters that can be saved, read, and reread over the years–is a wonderful way to stay close. It is especially important in our busy lives to keep alive what really matters most: love, caring for each other, finding concrete ways to say it and show it, every day and in every way you can. It’s what endures, after all, and what we retain and hold on to, especially in our hearts.

…Ronnie’s letters move me to this day. They are his gift to me across the years, and throughout the decades of love.

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady ...

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…an uncommon love affair that continues to endure…

…like mine…hugmamma.

 

 

 

getting my mojo back…with love letters

It doesn’t take long to settle into the rut that is my life. I say that with my usual tongue-in-cheek humor. But after the last few weeks of unexpected twists and turns, I’m glad to be doing the same old, same old. There’s comfort and bountiful pleasure in just being able to muddle along…contentedly. Small things mean a lot at this stage of my life.

Cover of

Cover of Elvis in the Twilight of Memory

Half-Price Books at Crossroads Mall is where my eyeballs become the size of saucers. You know, cups and saucers. The biography section being my favorite. It’s always inevitable that a title or two or three will beckon me to buy, and I usually do. Books about celebs from the Golden Age of Hollywood, or singers whose songs got my foot tapping or my heart beating, or historical figures who let their guard down, always get my attention. Skimming the jacket covers I decide if, in fact, they’re worth my time and money. The titles I brought home tonight? Herbert G. Goldman’s Fanny Brice – The Original Funny Girl, Paul Alexander’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams – The Life, Times, and legend of James Dean, Elvis – in the twilight of memory by teenage girlfriend June Juanico, The Bluebird Cafe Scrapbook – Music & Memories from Nashville’s Legendary Singer-Songwriter Showcase edited by Amy Kurland, Mark Benner & Neil Fagan, and I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

If you’re a regular to hugmamma’s mind, body and soul, you already know you’ll probably be reading a review of one or more of the above-mentioned books. But the one that most impressed me tonight was the slim paperback containing Reagan’s love letters to his wife, Nancy.

Unlike most of America it seems, I was more enthralled with Ronald Reagan the actor than Ronald Reagan the president. Not that I didn’t think he was fine, but after all he was a Republican, not necessarily my brand of politician, although I might’ve voted for him. Neither was I a huge fan of Nancy Davis, preferring Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Reagan. But all this is ancient history, as they say. What was obvious then, and now, is how devoted the Reagans were to one another. That’s why I was intrigued by the book of letters. Following are 3 of the many contained therein.

July 13 (1954)…a.m.

My Darling
     The first day of shooting and like all first days I can’t tell you good bad or indifferent. Everything is hectic and upset what with the truck caravan arriving from L.A. in the dark last night. Most of the morning was spent getting the trucks unloaded and the equipment straightened out. Ben. B. is on hand so things can really get buggered up. I think Alan D. is trying to get some of the story holes plugged and this morning changed one scene “a la” a suggestion from “guess who.” However, our opposition is B.B. himself so I only whisper in an off-ear and let them fight it out. So far “Lady S.” is no help–taking the attitude of “who cares in these kinds of pictures.”
     However there is one golden glow warming my soul in this first sunset–I’m twenty-four hours closer to you. Last night was another one of those nights–just too beautiful to stand. So tonight I’ll probably be looking at the Moon which means I’ll be looking at you–literally and figuratively because it lays far to the South of this mountain top and that’s where you are. That takes care of the “literal” part–the “figurative” part requires no direction, I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.
     Please be careful and don’t get too good at covering your own shoulder at night–I’d miss doing it. Be careful in every other way too–nothing would have meaning without you.
     Now if two “Muffins” I know will exchange a kiss for me–my good night will have been said.

I love you
Ronnie

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952

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Feb. 14 (1960)

Darling Mommie Poo
     Feb. 14 may be the date they observe and call Valentine’s Day but that is for people of only ordinary luck.
     I happen to have a “Valentine Life” which started on March 4 1952 and will continue as long as I have you.
     Therefore realizing the importance of this to me, will you be my Valentine from now on and for ever and ever? You see my choice is limited, a Valentine Life or no life because I love you very much.

Poppa

According to Nancy Reagan “The assassination attempt made us realize how very precious our lives were. It made us all the more devoted to each other. I think this comes through very strongly in Ronnie’s Christmas letter of 1981, written nine months after the shooting.”

The White House
Washington

Dec. 25 1981

Nancy Reagan says her last goodbyes to the pre...

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Mrs. Reagan 2

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Dear Mrs. R.
     I still don’t feel right about your opening an envelope instead of a gift package.
     There are several much beloved women in my life and on Christmas I should be giving them gold, precious stones, perfume, furs and lace. I know that even the best of these would still fall far short of expressing how much these several women mean to me and how empty my life would be without them.
     There is of course my “First Lady.” She brings so much grace and charm to whatever she does that even stuffy, formal functions sparkle and turn into fun times. Everything is done with class. All I have to do is wash up and show up.
     There is another woman in my life who does things I don’t always get to see but I hear about them and sometimes see photos of her doing them. She takes an abandoned child in her arms on a hospital visit. The look on her face only the Madonna could match. The look on the child’s face is one of adoration. I know because I adore her too.
     She bends over a wheelchair or bed to touch an elderly invalid with tenderness and compassion just as she fills my life with warmth and love.
     There is another gal I love who is a nest builder. If she were stuck three days in a hotel room she’d manage to make it home sweet home. She moves things around–looks at it–straightens this and that and you wonder why it wasn’t that way in the first place.
     I’m also crazy about the girl who goes to the ranch with me. If we’re tidying up the woods she’s a peewee power house at pushing over dead trees. She’s a wonderful person to sit by the fire with, or to ride with or just to be with when the sun goes down or the stars come out. If she ever stopped going to the ranch I’d stop too because I’d see her in every beauty spot there is and I couldn’t stand that.
     Then there is a sentimental lady I love whose eyes fill up so easily. On the other hand she loves to laugh and her laugh is like tinkling bells. I hear those bells and feel good all over even if I tell a joke she’s heard before.
     Fortunately all these women in my life are you–fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you. Browning asked; “How do I love thee–let me count the ways?” For me there is no way to count. I love the whole gang of you–Mommie, first lady, the sentimental you, the fun you and the peewee power house you.
     And oh yes, one other very special you–the little girl who takes a “nana” to bed in case she gets hungry in the night. I couldn’t & don’t sleep well if she isn’t there–so please always be there.

     Merry Christmas you all–with all my love.

Lucky me.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

 I Love You, Ronnie should be required reading for men and boys everywhere. Maybe then both sexes would be from the same planet…Venus. Now I “get” the passion between Nancy and her Ronnie. Perhaps if this book had been published at the time he was president, onlookers wouldn’t have been so disparaging of her. But then again the naysayers would have probably faulted her for self-promotion had she made the letters known back then. Or worse, the couple might’ve been ridiculed for being more absorbed with one another than they were already viewed as being. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad Nancy Reagan gave us a peek inside her love affair with Ronald Reagan.

…always room for one more pair of star-crossed lovers…another Romeo and his Juliet…hugmamma.

tv genie…real life mom

Have just finished reading Barbara Eden‘s autobiography. Remember her as the genie in the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie?” A favorite sitcom of mine at the time it aired in the mid-60s, I’m sure she was the fantasy of every young girl who wanted to be like Jeannie, and every man, young and old, who wanted to be her master, aka Captain Tony Nelson. Because I looked nothing like Barbara Eden, blonde, blue-eyed, I don’t think I was as fixated on her as I was on her cute leading man, Larry Hagman. I probably tuned in as often as I could to drool over his good looks. I thought the show was funny, although I liked it a lot better when Tony finally stopped running away from Jeannie’s advances. They made a cute, TV couple; I thought they’d make a great pair in real life too. But I guess I was wrong.

It’s obvious that Eden admired Hagman’s acting, and shared a lasting friendship with him, but according to her, he was like the Tasmanian devil…hell on wheels!

On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control. The crew, however, quickly lost patience with him and vented their frustration by cutting him dead as often as possible and tormenting him however and whenever they could. Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea (as opposed to his habitual champagne), the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.

When the unsuspecting Larry took a sip and spat the tea out in disgust, the entire set rocked with suppressed laughter from the delighted crew, who probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.

In real life, Eden was happily married to fellow actor Michael Ansara. Of Lebanese descent, he was two when his parents moved the family to America. She raved of him…

As far as I–and thousands of fans and love-struck female fans throughout the world–was concerned, Michael Ansara was a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity. Six foot four and darkly handsome, with blazing brown eyes, a deep, resonant voice, and a powerful aura of strength and dependability, Michael was a Hollywood heart-throb with sex appeal to burn.

I think we get the picture. If Ansara had portrayed a genie competing with Tony Nelson for Jeannie’s hand on the TV sitcom, I wonder if Eden could’ve refrained from revealing to the audience which of her two suitors really had her in the palm of his hands?

I’m sure you’ve surmised that Eden and Ansara tied the knot. Seven-and-a-half years after marrying they were delighted to welcome son Matthew, a month before the premiere of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  ... with husband Michael Ansara and son Matthew - i-dream-of-jeannie photoBecause her career climbed while her husband’s nose-dived, Eden became the family breadwinner. For the most part the arrangement seemed to work just fine, for as she explained at the conclusion of her book…

The wonderful thing about my business and about my life is that I never know what’s around the corner. I’m very lucky to like what I do and to be able to work at it so happily and for so long. I’ve always considered my career to be a great joy and a great gift. I love it, and long may it continue.

But her career took its toll on her marriage, her son, and another baby boy as yet unborn. It was this chain of events that convinced me to share Eden’s story with you, which I’d intended to do yesterday, Mother’s Day. What she endured is a tragic example of a wife and mother who tries to do everything, to be everything to all people.

… Ten years into our marriage, I gave an achingly honest interview to a newspaper journalist about the problems Michael and I encountered in our marriage.

“My husband, Michael,” I said, “is becoming more and more annoyed watching me go to work every day while he sits home. He hates the thought of it. I don’t blame him. There isn’t a man around who enjoys the feeling that his wife is the breadwinner and brings home the bacon. I know it’s uncomfortable for Michael. What are we going to do about it? I wish I knew…All I’m sure of is that Michael would give anything to see our positions reversed.” …

Difficult or not, Michael and I had no plans to end our marriage, and we still loved each other as much as we ever had. Then in 1971, to our delight, I became pregnant with our second child.

Even their son Matthew was excited at the prospect of a baby brother. Good fortune seemed to bless her with more good news when she was offered the opportunity to tour America for 10 weeks in not one, but two musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and “The Sound of Music.” She signed on against her better judgment, for she was in her late thirties and was already feeling the effects of already having acted, sung, and danced “nonstop all over the country for so many years.” For once in her life she was “overcome by a burning desire to refuse not just one job but two.”

But Michael was not working, and if I didn’t take this opportunity, our family would go hungry. Although I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the case, against my better judgment, I agreed to star in both musicals and tour the country right up until I was eight months pregnant.

She took precautions, checking in with doctors wherever she toured, who were recommended by her L.A. physician. But upon finally returning home and being examined by her own doctor, she learned what no mother wants to hear.

My baby was dead. His umbilical cord had been crushed, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I say him, because the doctor told me that my unborn baby was a boy. The doctor also told me that in all his many years of practice, he had never encountered a case like mine.

Worse yet, Eden says…

I only knew that I had to carry my dead baby inside of me for six more weeks, because were the doctors to deliver his lifeless body before then, my own life could be endangered. In hindsight, this is a barbaric, outmoded medical practice, and thankfully it is no longer done.

Upon reading this, I recollected overhearing adults whisper of such instances when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it all meant, except that a woman had to carry the dead fetus the entire nine months. There’d be no shortcuts. Needless to say the ordeal took its toll on Eden, who unknowingly succumbed to postpartum depression. After 15 years of marriage she divorced Ansara who was bewildered by her decision. And in retrospect, she regrets not having sought counseling to save her marriage. For the consequences took its toll on their son. “But I still regret our divorce, because the repercussions it would one day have on Matthew would turn out to be cataclysmic. Had I been able to look into a crystal ball at that time, I would have stayed in the marriage until Matthew was an adult. but I didn’t.”

In 1974, Michael, Matthew, and I were living in our ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley, a prosperous community of well-heeled, well-educated people. Little did we know that someone who lived close by, a wealthy hippie, a man with children of his own, was growing pot in his garden and smoking it with the neighborhood kids. I guess that particular person thought that what he was doing was fun, cool, harmless. If I ever came face-to-face with him, I’d happily kill him.

Fate is so strange, and I often ask myself this question: if Michael and I had lived in another neighborhood, not one where our neighbor was growing pot and handing it out to kids like some kind of candy, would Matthew have avoided becoming a drug addict?

But the reality may well be different. Marijuana can be an extremely addictive drug, and the addiction is intensified if a child not only starts smoking when he is extremely young but also has a marked genetic predisposition to addiction. Sadly, Matthew fell into both categories. Michael and I both had alcoholism in our respective families. Michael’s grandfather was an alcoholic, as were both my mother’s older sister and her brother. Matthew’s early addiction to marijuana easily led to an addiction to harder drugs later on.

Another factor, one for which I will blame myself to my dying day, is that Matthew was only nine when I asked Michael for a divorce, and he never really recovered from having his hitherto happy home broken up. …

…on the morning of June 26, (2001) all my worst fears came true. Matthew was dead. …He was just thirty-five years old.

Barbara Eden’s life continued in the same way that all our lives do…with its ups and downs. Although Michael Ansara remains the “love of her life,” she has found happiness with her third husband, Jon Eicholtz, a builder/developer.

a mom who tried to do it all…and in my estimation…remained a classy lady despite her tragic losses…hugmamma.

 

proactive…against alzheimer’s

My friend Sylvia sent me a nice email which, among other things, expressed her concern that perhaps I dwell on the possibility of succumbing to Alzheimer’s more than I should. I’m certain the disease is not in her genes, for I’ve never heard her speak of either parent or any family member having died with it. Sylvia’s a decade older than me, and shows no signs of memory loss. Having done extensive reading about the disease, I know that she’s already got several factors in her favor for NOT developing Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia is a voracious knitter. Challenging herself with difficult patterns probably keeps her mind agile. She is a meticulous housekeeper and gardener. You could dine off her kitchen and dining room floors, and spread out luxuriously on her manicured lawn, while your eyes feast on the abundant clematis flowers that climb the nearby fence. The exercise involved is also good for the brain, not to mention the body. Finally, Sylvia relishes socializing. She and Jim traipse hither and yon to listen to the big band sounds of “Peach Tangerine.” She has belonged to the “Happy Hooker’s” knitting group for 20+ years, inviting the ladies to her home for an annual Christmas luncheon. And she goes above and beyond to help those in need, from family members to elderly neighbors in her retirement community. Sylvia’s got socializing down to a science which is great, because it’s a key ingredient in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia has taught me invaluable lessons on growing older gracefully…and keeping my mind healthy and happy. From what they’ve written, others have also given me useful information so that I can take a proactive role in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s or perhaps preventing it altogether. I regularly share this information in the hopes that it might encourage others to take action as well. I don’t do it as a plea for sympathy, or to sound my own horn. I truly feel this disease, like others, can and should be addressed as early as possible. If there’s any cause for which I am fully committed, rather than “burying my head in the sand,” the delay or prevention of Alzheimer’s is the mother lode of all causes for me. I take a stand not only on my own behalf, but also on behalf of those I love, and who love me.

Cover of

Cover of Preventing Alzheimer's

Leeza Gibbons, one-time TV personality writes in the “Foreword” for Preventing Alzheimer’s – Ways to Help Prevent, Delay, Detect, and Even Halt Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Memory Loss by William Rodman Shankle, M.S., M.D. and Daniel G. Amen, M.D.:

If you’ve picked up this book, you’re probably scared. Or if not afraid, at least interested in what causes Alzheimer’s disease and learning whether you are at risk.

The reality is that we’re all at risk of having this “terrorist-like thief” randomly break into our brains and begin to rewrite our life stories. As Baby Boomers beginning to face our mortality, Alzheimer’s is the unwelcome stranger that reminds us of our vulnerability.

The good news is that we don’t have to be defenseless.

My grandmother lost her life because of Alzheimer’s disease. We lose a little more of my mom everyday. Before Mom was fully trapped behind the fog, she asked me to promise that I would tell her story and use it to educate and inspire. I am, but doing so often brings more questions than answers. She looked into the face of her mother at my Granny’s funeral knowing what her fate would be. I looked at Mom and wondered…What about my children, and what about me? Am I next in line to have my memories stolen?

When my three children ask me if I will get “it” I tell them–truthfully–that I don’t know.

Thanks to Drs. William Rodman Shankle and Daniel Amen, what I do know is that perhaps I can effectively manage my risk of getting the disease, and you can, too. Whether or not you have a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia in your family, your goal is to keep your brain strong and healthy. …

We all know that the “age wave” is about to crash in our culture and yet we are not at all ready. Even in the wake of President Ronald Reagan‘s death, there is still so much shame and stigma surrounding memory disorders that many families try to compensate and deny until they are bankrupt–financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Alzheimer’s is a disease that depletes and depletes, and it is never satisfied with the diagnosed individual…it wants the entire family.

It’s for this reason I created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation. Our family was numb and paralyzed with fear when Mom was diagnosed. It was almost impossible to find the help and support we needed. Answers were scarce. …

Leeza's Place

At Leeza’s Place, our mantra is early diagnosis. We believe in memory screenings to get a baseline reading, against which any decline can be measured. We believe in educating our guests about the latest in alternative treatments to complement traditional approaches. We believe in being proactive against this frightening force. We believe in support for both the recently diagnosed and those who care for them.

That’s why I am so impressed with Drs. Shankle and Amen and their work. They are well-respected scientists whose work is world-renowned, but I also know them as kind, compassionate men who not only focus on how to tackle this disease, but on connecting with families who arrive in their offices with their breath knocked out of them, looking for a miracle. These two doctors will never try to talk anyone out of expecting a good outcome…they have seen it happen too many times. They have been the guiding forces toward success stories that may offer real hope against a dark landscape of despair. …

You are perhaps doing nothing short of changing the course of your future, and possibly someone else’s, by reading this book. Can you think of anything more powerful or important? It’s a popular notion that we must gracefully surrender the things of youth. Yes, we will lose our firm muscles and unlined skin, but memories should be ours for keeps. They are what resonate at the end of a life, sweetened over time.

We must do what we can to bolt the door to our minds so that our treasured recollections of those we love, where we went, and what we felt will be kept forever as a sort of “soul print” of our time here on earth. This book suggests options that might have the potential to lock out Alzheimer’s disease in order to do just that.

This image shows a PiB-PET scan of a patient w...

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Under the heading “What the Brain Needs to Stay Healthy,” Drs. Shankle and Amen write:

Fuel
Just like any other living thing, a brain needs fuel to grow, function, and repair itself. Glucose and oxygen run the engine powered by your brain cells. Glucose is a simple six-carbon sugar. Unlike other cells in your body, your brain cells only know how to use glucose. Anything that impairs glucose delivery to brain cells is life-threatening. Oxygen is required to produce energy; without it your mitochondria will not produce enough energy to keep your brain alive. Because blood delivers glucose and oxygen to your brain, nothing must get in the way of blood flow if the brain is to stay healthy.

Stimulation
Although largely genetically programmed to turn on its functions at the right developmental age, the human brain also depends on proper stimulation to grow and develop throughout childhood and to maintain its functioning into old age. When you stimulate neurons in the right way, you make them more efficient; they function better, and you are more likely to have an active, learning brain throughout your life. …

The best sources of stimulation for the brain are physical exercise, mental exercise, and social bonding.

Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is important for brain health. Moderate exercise improves the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body and helps maintain healthy blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen and glucose delivery. Exercise also reduces damage to neurons from toxic substances from the environment, and it enhances insulin’s ability to prevent high blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. Physical exercise also helps protect the short-term memory structures in the temporal lobes (hippocampus and entorhinal cortex) from high-stress conditions, which produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol (20). …The Honolulu Study of Aging found that untreated high blood pressure during midlife (40 to 60 years old) greatly increases the risk for dementia. …This study emphasizes the importance of regular exercise and proper treatment of any medical conditions you may have. …

Mental Exercise
Physical exercise has a global effect on the brain, but mental exercise is equally important. By mental exercise, we mean acquiring new knowledge. It is possible to use your brain without learning anything new, which in the long run is not terribly helpful. For instance, Dr. Joe L. reads mammograms all day long–reads thousands of them a year–and although he is working his brain every day, he is not actually taking in new information. Whenever the brain does something over and over, it learns how to do that particular thing using less and less energy. New learning–such as learning a new medical technique, a new hobby, or new game–helps establish new connections, thus maintaining and improving the function of other less-often-used brain areas. …

Social Interaction
One common source of brain stimulation that is often overlooked is interacting with other people. Social interaction is the fuel the brain needs to develop the ability to negotiate, cooperate, and compromise with others, to know right from wrong, and to know when to respond and when to keep silent. These highly complex human abilities are largely controlled by the tips of the frontal lobes. They start to develop before two years old, such as when the infant starts saying no to the parents. These abilities continue to develop at least until 50 years old, according to studies of brain myelination, and perhaps longer.

Child neglect has been associated with many brain-based developmental difficulties such as personality and learning and behavioral problems. Likewise, adults deprived of the company of others experience a clear negative effect on cognitive abilities, memory, and social skills. In studies on social connectedness in the elderly, it has been shown that people who spend time with others on a regular basis are cognitively sharper. In addition, their emotions are more even. Psychiatrists have seen time and again that people who are isolated commit suicide dramatically more often than those who are active in society. Simple social interaction stimulates particular neuronal circuits. For instance, there is a self-awareness circuit at the very tip of the frontal lobe. If its capacity is diminished, the person can no longer judge her own abilities. Self-awareness is maintained, literally, by being aware of oneself, and that is aided significantly by feedback from other people. If the circuits in the crucial areas of the frontal lobe aren’t being used, they atrophy, and the person’s social skills suffer.

Page 71 of the book carries “The Shankle-Amen Early Dementia Detection Questionnaire.” Listed are 21 short questions to which the answers are either “yes” or “no.” In parentheses are numerical scores. Upon completion, one is asked to total the scores for the “yes” answers.

Interpretation
If the score is 0, 1, or 2, then you have low risk factors for developing ADRD.
If the score is 3, 4, 5 or 6, then you should annually screen (see Appendix A) after age 50.
If the score is greater than 6, then you should annually screen (see appendix A) after age 40.

Following are the questions for which I answered “yes.”

1._(3.5) One family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other cause of dementia

10._(2.1) High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)

Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United Stat...

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As you can see my score is 5.6 indicating that I should test for memory loss, which I will be doing. Coincidentally as I write this post, there’s a Larry King special on TV, “Unthinkable – Alzheimer’s Epidemic.” Among other guests speaking of their experiences with family members who had Alzheimer’s are Leeza Gibbons, Laura Bush, Angie Dickinson, Ron Reagan, and Maria Shriver. Contributing to the piece are the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, as well as doctors, scientists, and other experts in the field. Larry King underwent testing, including an MRI, to see if symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s could be detected. He came away with a clean bill of health as far as they were concerned.

β-amyloid fibrils.

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The message of my post, and Larry King’s TV special, is to recognize and accept the potential for Alzheimer’s. But more importantly, it’s that we should be aggressively proactive in remaining out of its debilitating grasp for as long as we are able. For once its tentacles take hold, there’s no escape…ever.

preferring to be the aggressor…and not the victim…hugmamma.  

self-publishing…quality still matters

I recently attended a lecture about self-publishing. Quite a few were in attendance. I’d not realized how many wannabee writers are out there. Of course there were probably a handful of published authors in the mix. Already speaking when I arrived was self-published author Nathan Everett. He had quite a lot to offer about the design of the self-published book, so that it will closely replicate one that’s hot off the presses of an established publishing house. I liked that idea because I’ve seen a couple of self-published books that resembled pamphlets. I didn’t think they were worth the $8 or $10 asked. I love books, but they need to be worth their weight in cold, hard cash, especially in the current economy.

Cover of

Cover of Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Everett was a good speaker, so good in fact, that he convinced me to purchase his book Steven George & The Dragon. At a hefty price of $15, it sucked me in because of its well-designed jacket. Reading the first few paragraphs also convinced me that Everett’s self-publishing efforts were well worth the price. Or so I thought. The following day I settled into reading the 171 pages of fantasy. I’d not read this genre since childhood. Sorry. I’ve NOT gone ape over the Harry Potter or Twilight books, although I enjoyed the films. I’m inclined to read celebrity biographies, another kind of fantasy. But where I relished the aforementioned fantasy films and bios, Everett’s book was disappointing.

The upside of self-publishing is obvious. A writer can get his work out to readers without using middlemen. That, in turn, allows her to keep most of the earnings, a small percentage going to the company enlisted to do the selling. The downside may not be as blatant. Just because everyone can self-publish, doesn’t mean everyone can write well. I don’t think I’ll purchase another of Everett’s books to see if his writing gets better as he goes along. That’s too expensive a venture for my pocketbook. As it is, I’m not certain I can make it past the first chapter of his dragon book. See if you agree with me after you read the following sample from Steven George & The Dragon.

Once upon a time, there was a dragon-slayer named Steven George. He could not remember whether he had volunteered for the task or had been chosen. He did not know when he would be called upon to slay the dragon. He did not even really know what a dragon was–aside from the fact that it was fierce, and to be feared, and it breathed fire. He knew, however, from his earliest memories that he was the one who would one day slay the dragon. …

The dragon–Steven assumed–lived high on a mountain on the other side of a wide river. Steven had often seen plumes of smoke rise from its peak. Dragons breathe fire. There was smoke on the mountain. Therefore, the dragon must live there. If Steven could just figure out how to get across the wide and treacherous river, he could walk up the mountain, slay the dragon, and be home in time for dinner. But there was no way across the river. So Steven planned his strategy carefully. Exactly 10,230 steps downstream, an equally wide and treacherous river joined the one near his village, and became even wider, more treacherous, and impossible to cross. Steven determined to walk upstream until the river narrowed or became shallow enough to cross, and then he would come back downstream on the other side to the dragon’s mountain.

Steven was ready to shoulder his pack and step off his front stoop–the first step of his journey–when his sweetheart approached.

Phoenix Dragons

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“Steven, dear, I’ve packed you a lunch,” she said. She handed him a small parcel wrapped in oiled skin and looked at him lovingly. “So now you are off to slay the dragon. My hero. All my life I will pine away on our doorstep, dreaming of my brave dragonslayer. People will nod their heads when they pass and say, ‘She loved Steven George the Dragonslayer.’ Poets will write of our love and how you rode off to meet the dragon to protect your village and your love. I am so proud of you.”  

 What was even more disconcerting was the counting of steps as the hero made his way in search of the dragon.

…looked sadly at his sweetheart and took step number one. Two, three, four, five, six. Steven always counted his steps. As long as he knew how many steps from home he was, he knew where he was. Steven had counted the steps to the river, the steps to the pastures, the steps to the field. Steven had counted the steps between his home and his mother’s home. He had counted the steps around the village long-house. Knowing the number of steps he had taken was a comfort to Steven. 14, 15, 16, 17.

Steven walked at the steady, measured pace of 80 steps per minute. …As he moved forward–35, 36, 37, 38… He walked on through the village–51, 52, 53, 54. …as he walked through the village–69, 70, 71. …and continued counting only his footsteps–91, 92, 93. …as he stepped boldly out of the village–103, 104, 105.

And that only took me to page 4 of the book. I may attempt another try at reading Everett’s writing, but probably not in the near future. I credit him with making a living at book designing, as a paid consultant, and book selling. I guess the beauty of being responsible for the total package means the writer can find his own niche among readers. And truthfully, I think that’s the hard part…for either self-published or traditionally published books.

Complete set of the seven books of the

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 Mr.Everett did indicate that his book was intended for an audience of 13-year-olds. In my opinion that age group is more sophisticated and discerning than either Everett or I were at that age. Youngsters these days are masters of the internet, and totally captivated by J.K. Rowling‘s literary master-pieces. I don’t see them reading about Everett’s Steven George.

I had a similar experience with another self-published author a few years ago. My husband and I met the woman on one of his business trips. We had dinner with her and a traveling companion, a young niece. The woman was writing a piece about my husband’s company for AAA magazine. Early in the conversation she told us that she’d just published a book. I don’t think she mentioned that it was self-published. She explained that it was a children’s book, whose idea was spawned from her relationship with her own toddler.

Upon returning home, I went in search of the title at our local Barnes and Noble. A clerk helped us locate the book. Upon seeing it on the shelf I immediately knew it had been a self-publishing effort. Rather than a substantive book, it was a pamphlet. The jacket was mint green with a simple drawing on its cover of a child. Leafing through the pages, I felt no excitement, only monotony. The illustrations lent nothing to the story. Even $5 would have been too high a price for me to pay. I don’t recollect what the actual cost was. I returned the book to its shelf, and left with a disdain for self-published books.

Nathan Everett’s book demonstrates how far self-publishing has come in the design and appearance of the finished product. Purchasing his book was influenced more by my wanting it to serve as a model, when I decide to self-publish my own work. In that regard, I know I’ll reap the benefits of the $15 spent. I consider it a small investment. But the biggest gain already realized is knowing what’s written between the covers, had better justify going the whole 9 yards to self-publish.   

just because it can be done…doesn’t mean it should…and that’s the $64,000 question…with which i’m still wrestling…hugmamma.

honeymoon alone?…why not?

Absolutely loved this Traveler’s Tale by Jennifer Belle which appeared some time ago in the Wall Street Journal. How many new brides would go for the gusto and forge ahead with her honeymoon plans…alone? I don’t know that I’d have had the courage 40 some odd years ago. But then that was a different time, and I was an island girl. That’s my excuse for everything. Truth be told, I’m just a scaredy cat, always have been, always will be. My daughter’s a little more adventurous, in fact a lot more adventurous. She drives on freeways in any state without white-knuckled fear. Me? I’m still meandering back-roads, even in my hometown of 14 years. Now you know why this young Mrs. had me chuckling…and envious of her unbelievable hutzpah!

My Perfect Honeymoon
(That I Spent Alone)

Children's Valentine in somewhat questionable ...

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My husband and I met at a Valentine’s party, got in an agitating fight the next day and then became inseparable–that is, until our honeymoon.

Walking out the door to go to the airport, my husband went to get his passport from his desk. It was missing. I called our housekeeper but she hadn’t seen it. We searched the apartment. I called the Terrorist Investigation Unit of the FBI to report it stolen by the carpet cleaner. “We can’t go,” my husband said.

But my passport wasn’t missing. I had wedding money and an airplane ticket. So while he stayed home and called his mother to see if she had his birth certificate and made desperate plans to join me as soon as possible, I flew to Venice.

Gondolas in Venice

 

I took a water taxi to my hotel and the driver, a gorgeous man named Davide, insisted I take command of the boat, although I explained that I was from New York and didn’t even know how to drive a car. “I teach you,” he said and sort of slapped my butt and also touched my stomach while shifting gears. He gave me his number on a scrap of paper.

“I’m married,” I said for the first time. “I’m on my honeymoon.” He thought this was very charming and American and pretended to look overboard in the murky brown water for a groom. “Call me,” he said.

Harry's Bar interior. Venice Italy.

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At the Hotel La Fenice et des Artistes, beside the burned-down opera house, I checked into the honeymoon suite. I had cannelloni and bellinis at Harry’s Bar on Calle Vallaresso, and stopped to listen to, of all things, Hava Nagila, played by a band in San Marco. The next day I bought five hand-tooled leather journals from a bookbinder named Ustino and began writing in one of them at Locanda Cipriani, a restaurant in a quince orchard on a tiny island called Torcello. I ordered cannelloni again and wrote, “I’m eating cannelloni all aloni.” I wandered that night over bridges and bought a silk jacket with rats painted on it for $500.

Channel in Burano, Venice, Italy

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The next day I got my period on the island of Burano and found one drugstore among all the lace shops. There was so much lace everywhere, when I opened the new box of Tampax, I was surprised they weren’t lace too. I had dinner that night at Vino Vino on Calle de la Rotonda where you order from three dishes at the counter. It would have been perfect except for the waitress ignoring me during my lemon cake–and oh yeah, I remembered, my husband not being there.

Gondolas in a canal in Venice, Italy

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Waiting for him, I took gondola rides and drank wine with beautiful men. I soaked my feet in the bidet, listening on the phone to my husband complain about how he’d taken Metro-North to the county clerk’s office in White Plains to get his birth certificate. I went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia, lounged on my king-sized bed, got chocolate on my trousseau. “Your honeymoon, she is ruined!” the hotel clerk fretted. But she was perfect.

Honeymooning alone, I discovered what it was to be married. I experienced it more fully, had a chance to get used to it. Without him there to interfere, I could be my most romantic. We were star-crossed; he was struggling to get to me. Every bride should be alone after the stress of a wedding. I felt sorry for anyone with a groom to deal with. “Husband is my favorite word,” I wrote in my hand-bound diary. Believe me–I have never written anything like that since.

Four days after my arrival at Marco Polo airport I went back to pick up my husband. He turned out to be allergic to Venice and couldn’t stop sneezing, so we went on to Rome and then the Amalfi Coast.

Almalfi Coast (10/10/2007)

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When we got home our housekeeper brought me the slim Citibank check box from the desk and opened it proudly to reveal the safe place she’d hidden my husband’s passport. I’d moved that box a hundred times during my search, but hadn’t thought to look inside.

The scrap of paper with Davide’s phone number on it is still on my refrigerator. In case I ever want a second honeymoon.

(Ms. Belle’s novels include “High Maintenance” and “The Seven Year Bitch.” She remains happily married.)

my kind of woman…for sure…hugmamma. 😉

a fantasy becomes reality

Great news! My piece, “Long-Held Secret” written specifically for publication on the WordPress blog, The Time Capsule, is out.

The post will go live at 12 PM Eastern time today.
Here is the link for the post: http://wp.me/p15Plj-gc
Thanks for adding to the entertainment of my site. I appreciate it!
B.C. Young
 

 

 

Since writing the 600 word fictional piece requested by Mr. Young, I’ve added another 2,000 words. My husband, who earned his college degree in English, remarked “I can hardly wait to see where this goes!” upon reading what I’ve written thus far.  So the saga continues, and from time to time, I’ll post a sampling to whet your appetite for the finished book.  The end may be a long way off. You’ll definitely have time to save your pennies towards the purchase. Meanwhile, I’ll have to wrap my brain around the publishing end of making a book happen. Wish me luck! I’ll need it.

 hoping you’ll leave comments for me to read on b.c. young’s blog…and thanks in advance for checking it out…hugmamma. 

well worth a visit…

 

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

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Have found a few more blogs of interest, again for different reasons. Wish I could visit the millions of blogs that exist on WordPress, but I think that’s very unlikely. But every so often I peruse the pages, and pause on a blog whose post’s title and first several lines make me curious enough to “click,” and read more. I never gave much thought to how very important those 2 items are to getting read. But with so, so many to choose from, how does one decide? I have no idea, truthfully. My method is just to handpick them one at a time. And these are the ones I’ve recently enjoyed.

New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...

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Carloscollazo06 is an avid baseball fan. I mean avid.  He’s a high-schooler who hopes to become a sportswriter. Judging from his blog, I’m sure he’ll succeed. I understood one post, the one about his passion for writing, in spite of his being so young. His observation, not mine. While he hopes to venture beyond scripting posts about baseball, I’m not so sure he’ll be successful there. Scrolling down, I saw entries containing words like the Braves, Joe Madden, the Phillies’ second baseman Luis Castillo, and a reference to fantasy baseball on ESPNDid I get that all right? I also knew this blog and mine were generations apart because there were words I’d never known before, like yerd (yearbook nerds) and  werd (“writing nerd, of course”.) Of course! Who wouldn’t know what a yerd and a werd are? Duh!?!? Me!!! Nonetheless, this young blogger is worth checking out. He did spend time in NYC on a yearbook conference sponsored by Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association. We might be reading his sport’s column in the New York Times one day, so you might want to get started now.

 My Life in Photos – 365 Challenge, a newbie of 2 months is off and running, challenging her readers to post a photo a day in correlation to a given word. Today’s word, for example, is “situated.” Not an easy challenge , as you can see. My brain cells will definitely grow by leaps and bounds, which is more than welcome in my case. How about yours? Someone who has journaled for 25 years, you might want to check out this blogger’s photo-take on life.

Quickly becoming a friend, another blogging buddy, but one with whom I also regularly exchange emails is Figments of a Dutchess. Living a world away from mine in Holland, she shares my sense of fun, love of pets, appreciation of the great outdoors, and a passion for blogging. What we’ve not got in common is the wind blowing like a jet stream through her beautifully coiffed, short, blonde hair, while she sits confidently astride a Harley. Yikes! If I were to do that, my thinning, henna-rinsed hair might come undone…totally. Like gone, goodbye, fare thee well. I don’t think I’d look good in bald.

The Duchess is a great writer of fiction, having whet my appetite with “the second room on the right.” Hopefully, she’ll be launching the full episodic novel very soon. Like my buddy Scriptor Obscura who has been sharing technical tips with me, like “adopting” my internet doggie, Cheddar, Figments of a Dutchess has assisted in attaching the image “of pointed-toes, an umbrella, and raindrops” in the right sidebar of my blog. The amazing thing is that clicking on the image magically brings up the YouTube video of Gene Kelly in his signature dance role, “Singing in the Rain.” Try it!!!

finding friends on the internet…like finding gold…hugmamma.

never too late, “good manners”

The age of technology seems to have signaled an era where good manners have become extinct. Cell phone calls interrupt romantic dinners, cat naps on public transport, silence in a library. Text messaging is a never-ending, voiceless conversation. E-books and lap tops are all the companions some folks need. The latest gadgets and gizmos make it unnecessary for us to interact with one another.

Perhaps Mother Nature is encouraging us to get back to basics. Because in the final analysis, when all material things are washed away in a tsunami, or demolished in an earthquake, or engulfed in wildfires, people have to turn to each other for answers. We may do well to take a refresher course on good manners, on doing unto others as we would have them do unto us…before we find ourselves in need of their help.

The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., offers some good advice on being neighborly. Our memories just need a little jogging, and dusting off, to get us back on track toward being more human in an environment that’s becoming less and less so.

  1. Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the caller’s.
  2.  Don’t burn bridges.You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
  3. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per
    Mother Teresa

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    day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

  4. Rekindle old friendships.
  5. Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death-bed, “Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.”
  6.  Don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t know,” “I made a mistake,” I need help,” “I’m sorry.”
  7. Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
  8. Don’t rain on other people’s parades.
  9. Don’t interrupt.
  10. Never underestimate the power of words to heal and reconcile relationships.
  11. Be as friendly to the janitor as you are to the chairman of the board.
  12. Treat your employees with the same respect you give your clients.
  13. Remove your sunglasses when you talk to someone.
  14. Show extra respect for people whose jobs put dirt under their fingernails.
  15. Surprise an old friend with a phone call.
  16. Don’t be so concerned with your rights that you forget your manners.
  17. Act with courtesy and fairness regardless of how others treat you. Don’t let them determine your response.
  18. Spend your life lifting people up, not putting people down.
  19. Remember that everyone you meet wears an invisible sign. It reads, “Notice me. Make me feel important.”
  20. Encourage anyone who is trying to improve mentally, physically, or spiritually.
  21. Be especially courteous and patient with older people.
  22. Let your handshake be as binding as a signed contract.
  23. Love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  24. Regardless of the situation, react with class.
  25. Become the kind of person who brightens a room just by entering it.
  26. Remember that a kind word goes a long way.
  27. Spend twice as much time praising as you do criticizing.
  28. Offer hope.
  29. When you need to apologize to someone, do it in person.
  30. When a friend is in need, help him without his having to ask
  31. Never be too busy to meet someone new.
  32. If it’s not a beautiful morning, let your cheerfulness make it one.
  33. Remember that cruel words hurt deeply, and loving words quickly heal.
  34. Before criticizing a new employee, remember your first days at work.
  35. Never call anybody stupid, even if you’re kidding.
  36. Offer your place in line at the grocery checkout if the person behind you has only two or three items.
  37. This year, buy an extra box of Girl Scout cookies.
    Boxes of the two most popular Girl Scout cooki...

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  38. After someone apologizes to you, don’t lecture them.
  39. Carry a couple of inexpensive umbrellas in your car that you can give to people caught in the rain.
  40. When you really like someone, tell them. Sometimes you only get one chance.
  41. Take more pictures of people than of places.
  42. Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language.
  43. If you ask someone to do something for you, let them do it their way.
  44. Remember it’s not your job to get people to like you, it’s your job to like people.
  45. Write a thank-you note to your children’s teacher when you see your child learning new things.
  46. Never intentionally embarrass anyone.
  47. Don’t forget that your attitude is just as important as the facts.
  48. Remember that much truth is spoken in jest.
  49. Never resist a generous impulse.
  50. When in doubt, smile.

This list should keep us all busy for some time. In fact, just pondering them will probably occupy more than a few minutes. But we can take our time, for we’ve lots of time. Or have we?

practicing just one a day…will get us somewhere better than where we already are…hugmamma.

please visit…

 

If We All Do One Random Act of Kindness...

Image by heathbrandon via Flickr

Decided to take some very good advice of another blogger, “what’s bugging me today,” and branch out to visit other blogs. Classy Rose, the site’s creator, started the challenge called Random Acts of Kindness,” inviting fellow bloggers to read a new blog a day. Lacking a wealth of technical savvy, I couldn’t figure out how to get on board her challenge. But no matter, I decided I didn’t need to be a part of a group effort, I just needed to subscribe to the message. Toward that end, I would invite you to do the same.

I highly recommend you visit the blog, “I have MS.” It’s a well written documentary of this young 25-year-old, single mom’s debilitating journey with the dreaded disease. With no known cure in sight, she is trying to originate her own path toward a better life for herself, and her child. She is currently contemplating the help of a healer in Canada. John has received acclaim by those who believe he has helped them, in their search for an answer to whatever problem ails them.

“I have MS” also provides helpful information for those of us wanting to live healthier lives. Born out of her own need to fight MS, the blog’s creator has accrued a wealth of knowledge. I’ve commented on her blog that she might consider writing her life story. Its publication might help fund her visit to Canada to see John, and assist in making life more bearable for her family. Now if I only had some real “pull” with Ellen.

You won’t be disappointed by a visit to “I have MS,” in fact you might react as I did…

Raok barnstar

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i came away a little more humbled…hugmamma. 

“simon’s cat,” doesn’t get any better…

 

The front cover of the Simon's Cat book.

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Found these cartoon creations on blog buddy Scriptor Obscura’s site. You can check out the creator’s website, Simon’s Cat at http://www.simonscat.com, and Simon’s Cat youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/simonscat. Thought you’d get as much of a kick out of viewing these as I did. A different take on life, i.e. in cartoon form. My brother Ben, a devotee of cartoons, especially ones with messages, should love this blogger’s take on life. Enjoy! 🙂

and here’s one for dog fanciers…

saturday morning cartoons on my laptop…cooooool!!!!!…hugmamma. 🙂  😉  🙂

vanishing books

Image by jenny8lee via Flickr

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal reminds me of a fear I previously expressed in “books, extinct?” on 8/13/10. I maintained then, that e-books may be sending physical books the way of the dinosaurs. The news article, written by Stu Woo, “E-Book Lending Takes Off… New Online Clubs That Let Readers Share Have Drawbacks but Worry Publishers” suggests that books, hardcover and paperback, might be on a quick rocket ship to outer space, as we speak.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

E-book lending libraries such as Book-Lending.com and Lendle.me “ have gathered thousands of users, (and) allow strangers to borrow and lend e-books for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.‘s Nook free.”Another site, eBook Fling is slated to begin offering its services on Monday. The lending procedure is as follows.

1. Lender joins lending website, agreeing to share e-books. Each title is shared once.

2. Lender tells website which Kindle book she owns. The site determines which e-books are eligible for lending.

3. Lender is notified when a borrower requests one of her e-books. Request includes borrower’s name and email.

4. Lender instructs Amazon to send the e-book to the borrower.

The borrowing procedure is as follows.

 

A Picture of a eBook

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1. Borrower searches lending website for e-books that others have made available. 

2. Website sends borrower’s name and email address to the lender.

3. Lender tells Amazon to send the book to the borrower.

4. Borrower has 14 days to read the book and the lender cannot access it. After that time, the borrower loses access to the book and the lender gets it back.

The 3 lending websites mentioned are free to users. When books aren’t available for borrowing, users are referred to Amazon.com. If the references result in purchases, the sites receive commissions. The sites also encourage users to lend their books by offering them incentives.

Lendle requires users to make at least one book available for loan before starting to borrow, and the site has an algorithm that improves users’ chances of getting a book they want if they lend frequently. BookLending has a similar algorithm, though it has no requirement to make books available for loan first.

There are some drawbacks to e-book lending. Selection is limited. Most major book publishers haven’t made their e-books lendable, and the books lent by site users can only be lent once and for only 14 days. So with every successful loan, the sites’ lending library shrinks “unless new users with books to lend join.” Borrowing books is neither guaranteed, nor quick. A desired book must first be available for loan, and if a request is made to borrow it, the lender gets an email request, which she can accept or deny.

The Hunger Games

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But that hasn’t stopped avid readers like Marilyn Knapp Litt from signing up with BookLending. “I really like the idea of being able to borrow a book the way you might borrow a book from the library,” said Ms. Litt, a 58-year-old retiree in San Antonio. She has so far borrowed the first two books of the “Hunger Games” trilogy from BookLending. But she hasn’t offered to lend any, she said, because the books in her collection can’t be lent.

While publishers fear e-book lending deters people from buying physical and digital books, e-lending sites disagree saying “they are helping publishers because their users, after borrowing books, can purchase other books in the same series or by the same author.”

“People are saying I borrowed a book and I bought it because I didn’t finish it,” said Jeff Croft, who created Lendle. “That seems to be happening a lot.”

It’s an undeniable fact that electronic books are here to stay. It’s probable, though unfortunate in my estimation, that they will replace physical books as the primary access to literary works. The statistics tell the story.

Consumers spent $1 billion on e-books in 2010, and that number is expected to triple by 2015, according to Forrester Research. It added there were around 10 million e-readers in circulation in the U.S.. at the end of 2010.

 

The Last Lecture, a book that Pausch and Jeff ...

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as for me…i’ll just keep hoarding my beloved hard and softcover books…hugmamma.