a “new” old me…

Following up on my previous post nurturing thursdays: relief…myofascia release, I must admit to feeling pretty darn good this morning. 

Normally I awake with my body already aching as though I’d been lugging myself around for several hours. 

This morning I’m standing here at the kitchen counter as though I’d been given the proverbial “new lease on life.” And to show you that the “proof is in the pudding,” I could actually bend down to pet my 3 cats and one dog without flinching as I did so.

My pets got the benefit of some me and them time. Me cooing sweet nothings into their furry, little ears; them lapping up every morsel of mommy murmurings dropping from my mouth.

Even hubby reaped the benefit of yesterday’s rejuvenating rubdown…without having to undergo it himself.

I slid out from under the bed covers, sashayed down the hallway to the kitchen, and fixed him an egg sandwich, replete with a nicely done, fried egg, a couple of lightly sauteed ham slices, with slivers of cheese sandwiched between so that they’d melt. To complete the morning feast, I sliced a couple of large, juicy strawberries for hubby to nibble upon. Hot green tea with slivers of fresh ginger finished off my king’s 6:30 a.m. meal.

I sent happy hubby on his way, and after I publish this piece I’ll return to my comfy nest of sheets and quilts to catch 40 more winks.

The moral of this little story?

…go get a massage! pronto!

………hugmamma.

 

for a mom, good therapy

Am still thinking about my daughter’s difficult circumstances to do with her broken hand. I’m sure moms can relate to the feeling of total inability to do anthing, except offer support and encouragement. If I could let her have the use of my right hand, I would. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s her hand, her life, her experience, her emotional growth and maturation.

Rather than worry about my daughter who’s beginning her journey back to recovery, I decided to devote some thought to two other young ladies, one whom I just saw today, and another whose story I read in our local newspaper.

Jennifer, my 28-year-old massage therapist, is an old soul. After seeing her for over 2 years for various aches and pains, mostly chronic fibromyalgia, I’ve come to trust her very capable hands. Her petite 5 foot stature belies the strength she brings to her massages. But as with most practitioners of alternative health, Jennifer is good therapy for my spirit as well.

In the hour we’re together, we cover many subjects of interest to both of us. They all fit under the umbrella of life lessons, it seems. Funny that she in her 20s, and me in my 60s can find so much common ground. I think it’s because she puts great stock in old-fashioned values, like working hard to achieve her goals, and prioritizing her life around her family’s health, including growing her own produce, and her love of animals, including caring for horses in her spare time. 

Cover of

Cover of The Permanent Pain Cure

At the moment, Jennifer is also working towards her certification in becoming a myofascia-release specialist. It is a form of therapy which involves the patient in the massage process. I am a firm believer in this alternative health practice after my daughter’s strained groin muscle was cured at the hands of a New York physical therapist trained in myofascia release. Ming Chu wrote The Permanent Pain Cure, which I’d read hoping it would provide the relief my daughter needed, and it did. Or rather, Chu did. 

After spending thousands of dollars toward her certification, and many hours of studying, which also includes hands-on work, Jennifer will be ble to give her clients an even higher level of relief from pain. Anticipating doing this, has her so excited. But for now she’s focused on the training that still lies ahead…an uphill climb, I’m sure she can tackle.

North Campus, Brigham Young University

Image via Wikipedia

Two things struck me as relevant about the story of Rachelle Dotson. The 21-year-old is the only female from North America serving as a Mormon missionary. She requested a mission after graduating from Brigham Young University in 2008. Having studied Japanese in high school, Rachelle was sent to Japan, and was stationed 12 miles north of Sendai when the earthquake hit.

Rachelle reminded me of 3 nephews, Mormons, who served as missionaries when they completed high school. The eldest, James, spent a couple of years in Costa Rica; Tyler was in Mexico the same length of time, and the youngest, Logan, did his mission in Mongolia. I am in awe of these young people who dedicate their lives to serving others for a period of time. They don’t proselytize about their faith. They live alongside the village people doing whatever they can, and demonstrating their Christianity by example. I can imagine my sister and brother-in-law’s concern for their sons while they were away from their family. They did not, however, suffer the anxiety that befell Rachelle’s parents as they waited to learn their daughter’s fate following Japan’s natural disaster.

Kelli and Robert Dotson watched their TV in horror as events in Japan unfolded before their eyes. I can only imagine what ran through their minds. I know I would’ve been a basket case. So I was moved to read that as an after-thought, Kelli wished she’d gotten an address when her daughter had sent a brief message the week before indicating she had settled in after moving from Koriyama to Sendai. All they could do now was wait for news from Rachelle, which took 2 days to arrive.

“I’m well,” her note began, comforting her family. She then recounted her experience.

She and her companion (a girl from Tahiti) were riding their bikes when they heard the earthquake. Dismounting, the earth then shook beneath them.

“Cars beside us were bouncing and the canal on the other side was sloshing 10 feet,” she wrote. She and her companion “crawled into a field, hugged eath other and prayed.”

 

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Damage (03RTR2JTXC)

Image by Kordian via Flickr

Waiting for further information, however, was agonizing for the Dotsons. Thoughts of her daughter suffering were especially difficult for Kelli, “until she was inspired by memories of Rachelle on her fourth-year girls’ hike.” They brought peace and comfort to her mom remembering how her daughter had “carried her 40-pound pack on her back, and her partner’s on her front, so that they could continue on without rest breaks.” Kelli realized that Rachelle “was a strong woman–physically, emotionally and spiritually,” and that she would not be a victim, but would be helping the victims instead.

Evidently Rachelle had grown very fond of the Japanese elderly, loving them as family. So she was understandably distraught at not being able to reach her dear friends, and remain to care for those in need. Although the missionaries have been evacuated from the area, Rachelle continues her work in Japan, not scheduled to return home until December 22. Meanwhile, she assures her parents she wants for nothing. But she has learned one thing as the result of her experience.

“She carries a lot of food and water with her wherever she goes…and has a bag packed of clothes ready to go at any moment.”

Rachelle told her mother she knows it’s not necessary, but she can’t help it.

So when I think of my daughter and her misfortunes, I’m reminded of others like her who are wending their way through life, with their own challenges. They’re all learning, and growing, and gathering life experiences that will serve them as they grow older…and wiser. That brings me some measure of serenity.

in the eye of the hurricane…calm…hugmamma.

 

“point, and shoot!”

Had a great “date day” with my hubby. After a 20-25 minute drive to a massage appointment that turned out not to be until next weekend, we headed into Seattle.

Recent events of the last several weeks had me rescheduling appointments. Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes where they counted, on my calendar. Seniors know we have to write everything down. I forgot to do that, so we were surprised when a note on my massage therapist’s door said “Closed. Returning at 1 p.m.” Like a scrabble game, my brain started rearranging my thoughts and came up with “OMG! What date is this?” After being told, by my husband, that it was March 5th, we burst into laughter at my senior moment. “Oh well,” I said, “the ride through the countryside was beautiful. Now we’ll be able to enjoy the urban jungle of the city.” And off we went.

The primary purpose of our trip was to see about getting tickets for the musical, “Billy Elliott.” Online tickets were pricey, and the available seats didn’t look good. As always the “doubting Thomas,” I wanted to stand at the box-office window, ask the person sitting there for the prices, and look at the seating chart. I also wanted to query her as to her thoughts about the location of the seats. Which seats are better, these or those? I prefer the human touch, over the computer “clicks.” Call me old-fashioned, or old-school, or just old. It’s a generational thing, whatever you call it.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Image via Wikipedia

After finding out that the box-office was only open Mondays through Fridays, we cheerily wandered down the street toward Pike Place Market. My hubby will return and check out the ticket situation. If we see “Billy Elliott,” fine. If not, the movie version of several years ago suffices.

As we wandered down sidewalks overflowing with Saturday shoppers, I decided to capture images with my camera. I was fascinated with shops along the way. At Barney’s New York, I stopped to take photos of words boldly written across their over-sized windows. They spoke of backstage happenings. Of course I was captivated.

My daughter’s often spoken of things that occur behind the scenes at ballet performances. One particular incident involved a fellow, male dancer carrying her from the stage “wings” where she was crouching in pain, backstage to the physical therapist’s station, where the “charley-horse” in her calve muscle could be checked out. This prevented my daughter from dancing in the finale. With the help of female dancers gathered around, her costume was quickly removed, and her understudy was just as quickly shoved into it. And as the saying goes, it was “on with the show.”

The sun’s warmth felt glorious! My husband kept up with me as I wend my way in and out of the crowd, stopping to snap pictures of Macy’s windows with mannequins in funky

outfits, a boutique window with artsy graphics, a “Chocolate” shop I’d never noticed on previous visits.

Everything looks delicious when I don’t have to dodge raindrops. I lingered everywhere, on curbsides, in the cozy courtyard of a small hotel near Pike Place Market, and then, of course, the market itself.

People were everywhere, soaking up the unique sights, smells and sounds of food booths, craft booths, flower booths, produce stalls, fish stalls. My absolute favorite is the vendor who sells fresh-roasted nuts. I never leave without a pound of her cashew nuts. Today, I also purchased a pound of toffee-covered nuts for my husband’s “sweet-sour tooth,” a mixture of peanuts and hazelnuts. These nuts are never a disappointment! And I’m a nut aficionado. I love cashew chicken, goobers, “turtles,” chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, almond rocha, almond joy, and on and on.

Making our way back from where we came, the downtown area, I turned my camera on passersby. People fascinate me, all kinds. I wanted to capture Seattlites, although I’m sure they weren’t all city-dwellers. Nonetheless, when I asked if I could photograph them, I said it was to let readers of my blog see the people of Seattle. All but one responded with smiles and nods of agreement.

I’m sure I startled those on the other side of window fronts, a chef preparing ingredients, a couple of guys eating lunch,  and a Sephora makeup artist doing her thing. Caught up in playing amateur photographer, I approached a mother and daughter, a woman waiting outside a shop with her luggage, sales people in the coolest, new clothing store, “All Saints…,” and a street musician.

I was delighted to buy the street newspaper, “Real Change,” from an amiable homeless man. But another homeless person, an elderly woman, stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d never seen a woman who looked like a school teacher, or a librarian, or an office worker, leaning up against a lamp-post, plastic bags gathered around, dressed in an oversized, yellow, rubber raincoat with a long, green scarf snuggly wrapped about her head, cup in hand, begging. Wanting to “tell” her story, I asked if I could take a picture of her. Eyeglasses cast a shadow, while a small smile softened the blow of her emphatic “no,” in response. As we stood, a guy who looked to be in his late 20s, early 30s, pressed a plastic bag containing a boxed lunch into the woman’s grateful hands. He was on his way, before she fully mouthed her words of thanks. Oblivious to my presence, she hungrily removed the bag’s contents, murmuring how she really needed the food. As I pressed a $5 bill into her free hand, her eyes widened in disbelief. I can only imagine that she felt today was a good day. But as I walked away, I wondered about her tomorrows.

My husband said it best when he declared of me…”You dance to the beat of a different drummer.”

he’s right…i come up with my own “choreography”…hugmamma.

“change your brain, change your life”

I have to credit Dr. Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain Change Your Life with my “detour” towards a more positive attitude. It’s the path I’ll continue to travel, as I journey “home.” With the information gleaned from the book, I’m pretty certain I’ve suffered a form of depression all of my life, and I’m sure my mom did as well. We battled our “demons”, mustering up all the courage we could gather from deep within, and relying upon the  support  of loved ones. At best, our attempts to help ourselves was haphazard. Sometimes our efforts succeeded, other times we probably “blew it.” We muddled through, with growing negativity as a constant companion. To survive, we felt compelled to sever relationships along the way, that might destroy our fragile psyches. Looking back, we were just trying to live our best lives, given the hand life had dealt us. Without a doubt, there must be many who have led similar lives.

All kinds of help is available these days, from psychiatrists to clinics to alternative health practices. There’s no quick fix for depression, nor one right way. However I am a proponent of Dr. Amen’s philosophy, for it has helped me understand the workings of my brain. And just as I take care of my body with the help of exercise, diet, chiropractic manipulation and massage therapy, I am learning to look after my mental health, thanks to Dr. Amen’s message.

Your brain is the hardware of your soul. It is the hardware of your very essence as a human being. You cannot be who you really want to be unless your brain works right. How your brain works determines how happy you are, how effective you feel, and how well you interact with others. Your brain patterns help you (or hurt you) with your marriage, parenting skills, work, and religious beliefs, along with your experience of pleasure and pain.

If you are anxious, depressed, obsessive-compulsive, prone to anger, or easily distracted, you probably believe these problems are “all in your head.” In other words, you believe your problem is purely psychological. However, research that I and others have done shows that the problems are related to the physiology of the brain–and the good news is that we have proof that you can change that physiology. You can fix what’s wrong for many problems.

Depression is a physiological illness, just like diabetes or arthritis. Living in our high-tech, fractured society, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us suffer some form of depression, ranging from moderate to bipolar.

According to Dr. Amen’s book, my difficulty may lie within my brain’s Cingulate System. Glancing through the following checklist, I  have probably exhibited several of the symptoms, especially during the early years of my marriage. Maturity and motherhood helped me overcome some, but more recently, suggestions from Change Your Brain Change Your Life helped me to combat other symptoms, namely “excessive or senseless worrying,” “tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts,” and “tendency to predict negative outcomes.” But just as there’s no cure for arthritis, there is none for depression. Both have to be managed, which is fine with me. It’s a fact I’ve come to accept. Exercise and a reduction in sugar intake has helped lessen the arthritic pain in my lower back. And practicing Dr. Amen’s recommendations, has greatly minimized my depression.

CINGULAR SYSTEM CHECKLIST

Please read this list of behaviors and rate yourself (or the person you are evaluating) on each behavior listed. Use the following scale and place the appropriate number next to the item. Five or more symptoms marked 3 or 4 indicate a high likelihood of cingulate problems. 0=never/1=rarely/2=occasionally/3=frequently/4=very frequently

  1. Excessive or senseless worrying
  2. Being upset when things are out-of-place
  3. Tendency to be oppositional or argumentative
  4. Tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts
  5. Tendency toward compulsive behaviors
  6. Intense dislike of change
  7. Tendency to hold grudges
  8. Trouble shifting attention from subject to subject
  9. Trouble shifting behavior from task to task
  10. Difficulties seeing options in situations
  11. Tendency to hold on to own opinion and not listen to others
  12. Tendency to get locked into a course of action, whether or not it is good
  13. Being very upset unless things are done a certain way
  14. Perception by others that you worry too much
  15. Tendency to say no without first thinking about question
  16. Tendency to predict negative outcomes

GETTING UNSTUCK

The cingulate system of the brain allows us to shift our attention from thing to thing, idea to idea, issue to issue. When it is dysfunctional, we have a tendency to get locked into negative thoughts or behaviors; we have trouble seeing the options in situations. Healing this part of the mind involves training the mind to see options and new ideas. …Whenever you find your thoughts cycling (going over and over), distract yourself from them. …Sing a favorite song…Listen to music that makes you feel positive…Take a walk…Do a chore…Play with a pet…Do structured meditation…Focus on a word and do not allow any other thoughts to enter your mind (imagine a broom that sweeps out all other thoughts).

(Keeping busy has been my “default” response to low spirits. Ironing clothes is a “favorite”, a chore my mom taught me with pride, since that’s what she did at the orphanage where she worked. When I’m outdoors walking Mocha, nature’s beauty intoxicates my senses, forcing me to disengage from life’s frenzy. Indoors I get the same “high” watching a favorite Michael Jackson DVD, which gets my body pulsating to the beat. Sitting for a few minutes with one of my cat’s purring in my lap, makes me pause, enjoying the moment. And when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I thank God for all our blessings, and pray that all may live their best lives. This prayer alone has helped me fall asleep, because it stops the “ants”- automatic negative thoughts, dead in their tracks.)

Many people with cingulate problems have an automatic tendency to say no. Fight the tendency. Before answering questions or responding to requests in a negative way, take a breath and think first whether or not it is best to say no. Often it is helpful to take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds, and then take five seconds to exhale, just to get extra time before responding.

When you are stuck on a thought, it is often helpful to write it down. Writing it down helps to get it out of your head. Seeing a thought on paper makes it easier to deal with in a rational way. When repetitive thoughts cause sleeping problems, keep a pen and paper near your bed to write them down. After you write out a thought that has “gotten stuck,” generate a list of things you can do about it and things you can’t do about it. Use this simple exercise to unlock the thoughts that keep you up nights feeling tense.

(Blogging has been a God-send. It’s been cathartic in that I’ve been able to exorcise “demons” that have probably been roiling around inside my gut for too long, not only personal ones, but thoughts about the world in which I live.)  

When all of your efforts to get rid of repetitive thoughts are unsuccessful, it is often helpful to seek the counsel of others. Finding someone to discuss your worries, fears, or repetitive behaviors which can be very helpful. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.

(Coffee with friends has always been a great way to share problems and gain new insights, and perhaps discover helpful suggestions, and sometimes, even answers.)

Exercise can also be very helpful in calming worries and increasing cognitive flexibility. Exercise works by increasing brain levels of l-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid and has trouble competing against the larger amino acids to enter the brain. During exercise, more of the large amino acids are utilized to replenish muscle strength, which causes a decrease in the availability of these larger amino acids in the bloodstream. When this happens, l-tryptophan can compete more effectively to enter the brain and raise brain serotonin levels. In addition, exercise increases your energy levels and may distract you from the bad thoughts that tend to loop. I often recommend exercise for oppositional children as a way to improve their l-tryptophan levels and increase cooperation.

(Kristina’s exercise class has been a life-saver. During these last 5 or 6 years, it has been a healthy addition to my routine, not only for my physical well-being, but for my mental and emotional well-being as well. I can feel the difference in my mood and my energy level, when I’ve been remiss in my exercise routine. The same can be said for my visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist. They’re not luxuries; they’re necessities.) 

Low serotonin levels and increased cingulate activity are often associated with worrying, moodiness, emotional rigidity, and irritability. There are two ways that food can increase serotonin levels.

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as pastas, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, increase l-tryptophan levels (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) in the blood, resulting in more l-tryptophan being available to enter the brain, where it is converted to serotonin. The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in thirty minutes or less by eating these foods. Cerebral serotonin levels can also be raised by eating foods rich in tryptophan, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, peanut butter, eggs, green peas, potatoes, and milk. Many people unknowingly trigger cognitive inflexibility or mood problems by eating diets that are low in l-tryptophan.

For example, the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that I recommend for low-dopamine states (related to prefrontal cortex underactivity) often make cingular problems worse. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid. When you eat a high-protein diet, the larger amino acids compete more successfully to get into the brain, causing lower levels of brain serotonin and more negative emotional reactiveness.

(Diet remains an ongoing challenge, but at least I’ve eliminated as much sugar as possible, and replaced simple carbs with complex ones, and continue to ramp up my intake of fruits and veggies. But I’m no angel; every now and then I “sin.”)

Dr. Amen also prescribes reciting the Serenity Prayer, as a way to combat repetitive negative thoughts. “The Serenity Prayer is repeated by millions of people around the world, especially those in twelve-step programs. It is a beautiful reminder that there are limits to what we can do in life and we need to respect that. Many people find it helpful to repeat this prayer every time they are bothered by repetitive negative thoughts. I recommend that you memorize at least the first (three) lines of the prayer (change it as needed to fit your own beliefs).”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you in the next.

-Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

 As we age physically and mentally, our quality of life can suffer. Money certainly helps sustain a certain lifestyle, but is it substantive if we’re unable to reap the spiritual rewards as well? I’m trying to remain as agile as possible, mentally, physically and emotionally so that I can continue to write, and enjoy life’s small pleasantries, until I no longer can. Changing my brain, has helped change my life, for the better.

our best lives, hugs for…hugmamma.