touch and go…

Another pet will probably be leaving us soon.

IMG_4985Sitka…who thinks he’s a lap dog…not a “leave me to my own devices” feline. If he could attach himself to my body…or anyone’s for that matter…he would. His life is intricately intertwined with his humans. He doesn’t want to be anywhere except with us. If he could curl up around our necks and live there, only uncurling himself to eat and do “his business,” he would.

Sitka’s nearly 14…a long life in cat years. Not long enough for him, I’m sure. He’ll always be young at heart, living the carefree life of the youngster he most assuredly thinks he is. Always reaching up the length of my body to be carried…to be snuggled…to be loved like a child. 

Sitka, who could never get enough love it seems. Makes me wonder what his life before 8 weeks had been like. I adopted him, and his sibling Juneau, from the local animal shelter around that time. It was the day after 9/11. They were my own personal homage to lives lost on that horrific day. Diagnosed as having “worms,” I had to keep them apart from my two other cats so they wouldn’t contract the disease.

IMG_2145For a month Sitka and Juneau lived in our downstairs bathroom, much to their dislike. Every day I had to scrub down the floors, counter tops, toilet, shower stall and sink with disinfectant so that the cats would not reinfect themselves with those nasty little buggers. Every day I had to spend quality time with them closed off from the rest of the family, assuring my little boys that they were loved. Every day they tried to rip the door off its hinges…literally…in an effort to escape solitary confinement. Once my husband even had to take the door off its hinges. The boys had pulled out a drawer of the cabinet so that we couldn’t even open the door. Funny now. Sheer pandemonium then.

When we moved to Washington in 1998, we brought along 2 cats…sisters, Fudgie and Sunkist. After 9/11, Sitka and Juneau joined the family. A few years later our dear Mocha ruled the roost as the only dog. They all figured out how to make the most of their living arrangements.

Being the least inclined to follow anyone’s lead, Sunkist was the grand dame. Fudgie seemed to shrink from contact, preferring to hover nearby instead. Sitka, the friendliest of the bunch, wanted to be pals all around. Juneau preferred to body-slam his affection, especially with Mocha who tolerated, sometimes even tussling with his unlikely opponent. Once we had to reprimand Mocha for dragging Juneau a few inches by the scruff of his neck, as well as scold Juneau for making a nuisance of himself with Mocha.IMG_5213

IMG_4990When grandkitty Misha came home with his mom, our daughter, to vacation or, on occasion, to spend several months…or a year, the house would be in an uproar. Misha usually flounced his weight around, gaining the upper paw by sheer magnetism and charisma. He is one cat who doesn’t cotton to occupying the lower rung on any ladder, animal or human. As with the others, he soon learned that grammy…me…was the predominant alpha. Once he learned that golden rule…Misha settled in just fine with the others. Oh, he still drove me up the walls…splashing water all over the place in an effort to clean himself off while drinking water. We went through several innovative concoctions, not to mention types of water bowls, to save the wood floors from being drenched and eventually warping. Now that he’s happily settled in with his mom again, she has that headache with which to contend. And I can return to carrying on about what a cute, little grandkitty he is…from 3,000 miles away. Although I do love him as much as my own boys.

Sitka’s blood platelet count has been descending rapidly…for some unknown reason, it seems. The vet, a compassionate man who has doctored to Sitka’s needs since he was 8 weeks old, suspects cancer. In an effort to stabilize and even elevate his blood count, the doctor is trying every and all medication he can think of to turn things around for our little fella. In the end, however, it is about quality of life. I never want any of our pets to suffer for our sake. Once we become aware that they are struggling to hang on…it’s time to let go…and remember them during the best of times.

By the end of the week our little man might be gone…joining siblings Sunkist, Fudgie, Mocha and even earlier family members, Sushi our Shitsu and Bandit our Persian,(and many others before that for there was never a time I was without pets.)

I still have all their ashes…in little, floral tins provided by the crematoriums. One day I will spread them out in the garden so that they will be remembered year round as I wander about…among the flowers…the fallen leaves…the light dusting of snow.

…remembering those who love us…unconditionally.

………hugmamma.

(Move your cursor over each photo to read captions.)

Enjoy more pet shares at
https://hopethehappyhugger.wordpress.com/michelles-weekly-pet-challenge/

nurturing thursdays: this is our life…

Nothing puts on the brakes faster than learning someone near and dear has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Such was the case yesterday when we learned a family member has not only one, but two such diseases…multiple myeloma and amyloidosis.

Taking quickly to Google we learned that both illnesses require a battalion of white blood cells to bring down MM and AL. Both are rare, involving an over production of amyloid protein cells. MM is treatable; AL, manageable.

Sitting in church today, having returned to regular Mass only a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the peace I find relinquishing a few moments of a normally busy life to God. My mind may wander from time to time but my body is grounded in the community of people with whom I share a spiritual commonality. 

Regardless of what we believe individually, there is no denying that man is not the be all and end all. There is a greater force than us.

Throughout our lives we may strive to conquer the world, but inevitably we are the ones conquered. Our bodies, and sometimes our minds, abandon us to the elements. In Genesis 3:19 it is written in part:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Whether or not we believe in God, there’s no denying the fact that when we die our bodies indeed return to dust.

Living is struggling against the inevitable. We are consumed with the desire not only to survive but to thrive in the process. None of us with the will to live would lay down and die without a fight.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize it’s quality of life that matters. A long life seems hardly worth living if we’re not able to do much of what keeps us invested in being here.

In my opinion that quality includes living stress free as much as we are able. Of course there’s much over which we have little or no control. However there is also much we can control…over-worrying…living in denial…refusing the compassion and support of others, preferring to go it alone. 

Perhaps that over which we have greatest control is to alwayslive our best lives.

The threat of dying can eat away at what time we have left. Perhaps if we could learn to embrace life in the time remaining, we might look upon death as only a moment in time, albeit the final one.

I don’t profess to know more than anyone else. It’s only when I take the time to reflect in the relative calm of Sunday Mass does life reveal itself more clearly.

A man and a woman, heretofore strangers, bonded to give me life. It is not inconceivable then that the life given to me can end just as naturally as it began.

Life is not a given, it is a gift. I pray we can all remember that when life nears the end of its cycle.

And would that I could be there to embrace you in a

…huge and loving hug.

………hugmamma.

(Enjoy other Nurturing Thursday entries at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/nurturing-thurs-repeating/

doctoring…the old, fashioned way…with new possibilities

I’ve written previously that I often seek out alternative health practitioners to help resolve whatever physical issues I might be experiencing. While I do so wholeheartedly it is still not without hesitation at the thought of leaving behind the more familiar world of medical doctors. Those wizened, old men in white garb with stethoscopes dangling about their necks.

My husband and I thought the world of the last 2 doctors we saw with some regularity. They were both General Practitioners, not specialists. Drs. Kinnish and Purden had what many in the medical practice lack these days…a warm, bedside manner. We never felt rushed for time during appointments. We felt as though we had their undivided attention. We could ask questions and not feel dumb. We could even laugh at something funny.

While neither physician had all the answers, I felt as though they were in the trenches right alongside me trying to figure things out as best they could.

Dr. Kinnish retired at 67. Dr. Purden returned home to Canada to work as a hospital Medical Director and teach medicine to wannabe doctors. Both losses left me a little sad because of the compassionate human beings that they were, as well as my being left to seek out a new family doctor.

Even while I was seeing Dr. Purden, I began seeing a naturopath for digestive problems. With a thorough food allergy testing, she got me up and running better than I had been for a long time. Had I continued seeing her, I’m sure she could have helped me resolve other issues as well. Unfortunately, many naturopaths don’t accept insurance which makes filing claims a little tricky. Paying for services up front gets pricey, and dealing directly with insurance carriers can be a headache. Trust me! I use to work for one.

Well, lo and behold. I found a naturopath, Dr. Brooke, who files insurance claims on my behalf and accepts whatever is allowed. I just remit the copay. Hallelujah! And, as with most naturopaths, she’ll spend an hour with me if that’s what I require. I can ask all the questions I want. We can actually have a conversation about all the ailments I’m experiencing. There’s not the usual limitation as there can be with medical doctors…one symptom per appointment, please!

My latest venture with Dr. Brooke, and her colleague Dr. Kerns, is hormone replacement therapy.

Most women seek help when they go through “the change of life,” as my mother use to say. In other words, the dreaded…menopause. Contending with hot flashes and night sweats are debilitating, from what I’ve heard. I was one of the lucky few who didn’t experience these dastardly symptoms. My main problem was insomnia. I don’t think it helped that I was a night owl, inclined to stay up way past the bewitching hour. As I got older, vaginal dryness was also something with which I had to contend.

There are medical resolutions to the menopausal dilemma, such as Premarin. The fact that its literature specifically states there might be a small chance of contracting cancer put me off. And then when I learned it was derived from, of all things, horse’s urine, I was really turned off.

As I started to feel better with the thyroid supplement Dr. Brooke prescribed, and my fibromyalgia symptoms subsided, I began discussing the possibility of doing hormone replacement therapy, specifically The Wiley Protocol. Up to that point it had helped relieve my dryness symptoms.

Following several discussions I decided to take the plunge, beginning treatment a few months ago. No expert yet, I’m still trying to acclimate myself to the nuances of HRT. I don’t prescribe it for others, unless they’ve done their own research. The decision to alter the course of one’s life is individual. There are pluses and minuses to everything.

What I can speak to is my own experience.

Mine has been a hectic 2014 thus far…having a young adult back in the fold as she decided the next step in her career…a bath remodel that had its hiccups throughout…a dear pet whose life has disintegrated with chronic sciatica…a couple of roundtrip flights which hyper-activates my fibromyalgia…and moving my dancer daughter 3,000 miles away for the second time in a year.

Amazingly enough, with a few late mornings of sleeping in after recently returning from helping my daughter with her move, I have been…good to go. No. I’ve been…great to go! A call from my chiropractor’s office asking if I needed an appointment met with a resounding…”No! I’m fine. Thank you for calling though.”

While I may look the same on the outside…a bulging midriff…chipmunk cheeks…sagging chest…I feel more youthful on the inside. And with that, I can keep on…keeping on.

Baby Boomers are expected to live longer, thanks to technology advancing at the speed of light. However longer lives don’t mean better lives. Our internal clocks have not been altered. We’re still genetically tied to our ancestors whose lives were shorter by decades.

There’s no fountain of youth. Only possibilities which might help give us quality of life for as long as we live.

…and that…I can live with.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

happy fascia…happy me…

A friend in need…that’s me. A friend indeed…that’s Jennifer.

Jennifer Soames of Instride Body Work has been my body’s friend for many years. She was referred to me by another friend. A good thing. Word of mouth referrals are always the best.

As a massage therapist, Jennifer brought relief to my aching muscles. Between her magic fingers and those of my chiropractor, Carrie Babcox of Issaquah Family Chiropractic, I was able to keep on…keeping on. A good thing in older age.

A few years ago Jennifer upgraded her skills to those of a Kinesis Myofascial Integration specialist. According to Wikipedia…

Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) is a form of Structural Integration (a form of alternative medicine). It involves fascial manipulation combined with movement education. KMI Structural Integration is designed to restore structural balance, ease of movement, and a feeling of ‘fitting in your skin’.

For those unfamiliar with the fascia, physical therapist John F. Barnes offers a concise description…

Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.

Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.) A high percentage of people suffering with pain and/or lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but are not diagnosed.

Today I had another appointment with Jennifer. I’ve started scheduling monthly sessions with her. Sometimes I’ve gone longer than that between visits.

Throughout the hour long session, she intermittently asked me, as she usually does, to assess how my body feels. As is usually the case, I express feelings of lengthening from head to toe, and rib cage to rib cage.

As the appointment was nearing its end, I imagined my fascia smiling. A happy face on a white, ghostly me. Floating. Carefree. Light. Airy.

Jennifer chuckled at my description. 

It’s as though my fascia has finally arrived. It’s come into its own.

No more low man on the totem pole.

No more bearing the brunt of the daily burden without so much as a nod of acknowledgment.

No more just a humble servant.

My outer shell had been peeled away to reveal the mastermind behind the human machine.

My fascia.

I was floating like a ghost…anchored for the first time…to the real me.

The good news is now that my fascia has begun to resume its original form…the one with which I was born…the bad postural habits I’ve acquired over 65 years are beginning to dissipate. My body prefers the improved me, as now afforded by my newly elasticized fascia.

…freed fascia!…free me!

………hugmamma.organ-of-form-with-150x300Photo credit – http://rolfingmidlands.co.uk/

Visit http://instridebodywork.com/ to learn more about Jennifer Soames and her healing powers. The information she offers on her website can help free your fascia…and you.

 

 

nurturing thursdays: choices…changes…part 2

This is where I come in…

This year I turn 65. The year of Medicare. On the thresh hold to formally entering…old age. 

I’ve been practicing for a while, even telling folks I was already 65. My husband who turned 66 recently, pointed out my mistake. Seems I was rushing him along.

Funny thing. As the years pile up I’ve become more preoccupied with, of all things, death.

Without realizing it, death has become my point of reference these days. Not in a morbid sense, more like savoring the pluses in my life while trying to downplay or diminish the minuses.

So with my daughter as ring master, I’m jumping through the hoops and…going for the gusto!

On Facebook the other day, I saw a photo of my mother-in-law seated with her 7 daughters. They were the picture of health and happiness. She sat shrunken, a shadow of her former, robust self. A quick glimpse of her eyes spoke of a woman growing older by the second. Yes, she looked all of her 80+ years. But she seemed to me, even older on the inside.

Years before my mom died, she fell in the bathroom of a vacation home we rented near the beach on Oahu. Her legs were like toothpicks, bowed from years of suffering the effects of arthritis. She was probably mortified that it took several of us to get her to her feet. Sadness seemed to hover over her like a black cloud in spite of her efforts to smile away her tears.

Both images are permanently embedded into my brain. Old age is not a pretty sight to behold.

For more than a decade now fibromyalgia, arthritis and I have occupied the same body…mine. In recent years I’ve been forced to take a backseat, while they’ve taken to calling all the shots. By late afternoon, I’m totally fatigued. Muscling through dinner preparation and evening chores, I usually fall into bed exhausted, aching from head to toe.

Caring for our dog who has heart disease and chronic neck and back stiffness, has only added to my own aches and pains. I must cajole her into taking her meds morning and night, including forcing a capsule down her throat. I must lift her in and out of the car when taking her to the vet, as well as carry her up and down flights of stairs.

Knowing that we women are often the designated caretakers, I wonder how long I can manage to help those about whom I care, as my own health dwindles. How can I help my husband should his health fail?

It’s more than likely my chronic pain was caused by the statin CRESTOR which I started taking to lower my cholesterol. I alerted the prescribing doctor to the fact that news reports indicated Asian women were susceptible to muscle pain caused by the drug. He’d not heard about it so I remained on Crestor, especially since it did the job intended. Even a subsequent physician, who happened to be female and Asian, ballyhooed my information. Not until a third physician drew blood to measure my C-Reactive Protein number and found it to be 1000+ instead of within the normal range of mid-100, did I stop taking CRESTOR. Only after trial and error did I end up with the one I’m currently taking which doesn’t have the same effect…yet.

In the midst of trying to determine the cause of my chronic pain, the doctor sent me to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me as having fibromyalgia. Like the “kiss of death,” I’ve been living with it ever since. Thanks, CRESTOR!

Alternative medical practitioners, including chiropractors and massage therapists, have helped me live a fairly normal life. I’ve done pretty much whatever I’ve wanted to do. But with old age settling in for the duration, quality of life becomes harder and harder to sustain. 

After much reading, discussions with my naturopath, and soul searching,  I have begun the WILEY PROTOCOL natural hormone replacement therapy. 

Not having had the truly bothersome effects of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats, I never felt the need for hormone replacement treatment. But now that old age is staring me in the face and my quality of life is in jeopardy, renewing my body’s resources seems imperative. 

Without hormonal balance, our bodies are going the inevitable route of shutting down. And while that is the natural order of things, I’d like to make the journey as enjoyable as I possibly can. 

I’d like to savor the moments I can still do for others, and with others. I’d like to continue laughing, and hugging. I’d like to feel the excitement of learning new things no matter how old I get. I want to keep on writing, and blogging.

Essentially, I’d like to keep on…keeping on.

So why choose to change things up? What’s my goal? Well I’ll tell you…it’s for quality of life…no matter the quanity of years.

…here’s to living life…the best way i possibly can!!!

………hugmamma.IMG_3370

wellness…

It might seem to some of you that I’m forever making reference to certain failings of mine.

Why is that you ask?

Some time ago I read a small, thin paperback on how to write well. One piece of advice stood out from the rest.

Write what you know. That’s just what I’ve tried to do.

For some time now I’ve had health concerns…from chronic inflammation…to digestive issues.

A firm believer in alternative medicine, I see a massage therapist monthly and a chiropractor as needed.

Within the last year or so, things have gone haywire.

naturopath

naturopath (Photo credit: mugley)

I chalked it up to old age and moved forward as best I could.

I sought help from everyone in my bag of medical practitioners….family doctor…hand orthopedist…gastroenterologist…chiropractor…massage therapist…physical therapist…and most recently, a naturopath.

I credit all of them for bringing me along physically, mentally, and even emotionally.

What I’ve learned from all of them…and from my daughter, a professional dancer…is that life makes perfect health...impossible!

The experts do their best to get my body functioning again. However a resumption of my normal activities eventually erodes the progress made.

That’s life…in a nutshell!

Every now and then, however, there are “aha” moments.

Today I had a followup appointment with my naturopath. I left her office with a lot of good, useful information.

I discovered I’m sensitive to certain foods…almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sesame, wheat, eggs and egg yolks (from chickens…I can eat the ones ducks lay), pineapple, green beans and lima beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic, both baker’s and brewer’s yeast, cheddar cheese, and yogurt.

How will I ever forgo…peanut butter slathered on a slice of bread? Asian food cooked in sesame oil? The occasional glass of wine or fruity martini?

Only time will tell, I guess.

Then there’s the fact that the level of the good bacteria in my stomach is too low to offset the effects of my bad bacteria. As a result, sugar intake increases the growth of the bad bacteria.

Oy vay!

These lips will never taste sugar again. It’s a good thing I got my fill of holiday candies and cookies when I did.

My thyroid is slightly elevated. “Why the concern?” I asked. “It affects your metabolism.” I was told. No doctor had ever…in my 63 years…mentioned my thyroid. Let alone test it.

Now for a little good news. The ratio of my good cholesterol to my bad cholesterol…HDL to LDL…is 1.8. Well within the acceptable range of 0.0-3.2.

As a result of what we learned from my blood tests, we discussed the diet I should follow over the next several weeks. After that I’ll check back to discuss how it affected my overall health.

If the news is positive, I’ll  reintroduce some of the questionable foods to see how well I tolerate them. Eggs being the first challenge, according to my naturopath.

Following that eye-opening appointment, I had another one with the chiropractor.

Since my favorite practitioner had the day off, I was treated by a doctor who had recently joined the staff.

After an adjustment that took roughly 20 minutes, I left the office talking to myself.

“WOW!!! Oh, my God! I feel great! My back feels great! My hand feels great! My hips don’t ache! I feel taller! I can stand up straight! I don’t feel so fatigued! My head isn’t fuzzy!”

On and on I mumbled, unable to fathom that all my symptoms could be completely cured in such a short time.

Upon “returning to earth,” I knew it’d take a day or two for my body to settle into the adjustment. Another visit with the chiropractor on Monday will ascertain whether or not he needs to do any tweaking.

Chiropractor

My faith in alternative health practitioners has grown steadily over the years. They have helped me understand my body. From them I have learned to take precautionary measures to ensure…quality of life…as I continue to age.

…i write about…what i know…

………hugmamma.

quality of life…whatever it takes…

Being an arthritis sufferer, I’m always on the lookout for “weapons” to combat the debilitating effects of the disease. I plan to continue doing what I love to do for as long as I’m able. But I know I can’t continue to act as though my body is that of a 20-something-year-old…not even a woman in my 40s. I can no longer procrastinate. Tomorrow is now…my aches and pains decidedly tell me so…every chance they get.

Doctors (2000 TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

The following tips from TV’s The Doctors, reiterates what I’ve already heard. Hearing them again can never be enough. We all need reminders…seniors even more as our brains begin slowing down, and disconnecting from the multitude of facts and figures absorbed over the years.

English: A hand affected by rheumatoid arthritis
Image via Wikipedia

3 tips to reduce your risk of arthritis
     IT HURTS when you walk or climb the stairs, slice meat or brush your teeth–that’s the reality of arthritis. Family history plays a role in your risk, and so does age: The chance of developing many types of arthritis, including the most common, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, increases the older you get.
     Those factors you can’t control. But you can take steps to protect your joints and reduce your risk of arthritis.
     EXERCISE. Regular exercise strengthens the muscles around joints, which helps keep them from rubbing against one another and wearing down cartilage; it also helps increase bone density, improve flexibility and ease pain.
     DON’T PUSH YOUR BODY PAST ITS LIMITS. Putting too much stress on your joints can accelerate the wear and tear that causes osteoarthritis, and injured joints, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis.
     WATCH YOUR WEIGHT. Extra pounds put extra stress on your joints, especially your knees, hips and back.

My mom had severe arthritis ever since I can remember. She’d awake from her sleep in the early morning hours, pacing the floor, unable to do much for the excruciating pain that coursed through her knees. There was no let-up through the years. My last image of her was of a fall she’d taken after showering. Her legs were like crooked toothpicks.

That visual alone drives me to minimize the effects of arthritis, by faithfully exercising and watching my sugar intake. Both can reduce inflammation which is the hallmark of the disease. So the more often I affirm what I need to do…

the better i am…at seeing it get’s done…

………hugmamma.  😉  

 

 

change is inevitable…so grab hold

AARP card

Image by pmuellr via Flickr

Being 62 entitles me to membership in the seniors’ only club…the AARP. As such I regularly receive its news magazine. From time to time I like to share articles that have a place in all our lives. And I’m not only referencing baby-boomers and their elders. Some information, if obtained earlier in life, can improve one’s chances of quality of life in later years. Those lucky folk are then way ahead; unlike some of us who are playing catch up, reaping the results of what we’ve sown as carefree, careless, young whippersnappers.

Laura L. Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center of Longevity and author of A Long Bright Future, writes…

Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old)

Image via Wikipedia

The Resolution of a Lifetime
     Assuming you are a typical American, you are about 2 inches taller than your great-grandparents were at the same age even though you are genetically no heartier than your ancestors were 10,000 years ago. You are stronger, healthier, smarter and living an average of 30 years longer than Americans were at the turn of the last century. That’s because scientists, educators and activists in the 20th century changed culture, the crucible that holds science, technology and large-scale changes in behavior. We are living longer because the food supply is steady and debilitating diseases are prevented before they ever occur. Improved sanitation reduces the spread of contagious diseases, and education is available to all school-age children. Information flows ubiquitously from written and electronic sources.
     In order to make good use of these added years, we need to change culture again, just as radically as our ancestors did. We need to invest in science and technology because we’ve only begun to solve the problems faced by people who are living longer.
     And we need to change the way we live. We mustn’t hold on too tightly to old scripts that evolved to guide us through lives half as long. Instead, we can begin to ask what added years of life offer. We could create an entirely new stage in life, an encore stage–as my friend and colleague Marc Freedman maintains in his book
The Big Shift that we use to pursue meaningful work that improves society. Or we could stretch out all stages of life, making not only old age, but childhood, adolescence and middle age longer too.

Iconic image for social science.
Image via Wikipedia

Rest assured, the demographic changes that are now under way will change virtually every aspect of life. Our task is to thoughtfully and proactively redesign it. What should life scripts look like when most people spend as many years as “old people” as they do rearing children? How should families operate when there are four or five generations of a family alive at the same time? How should societies work when more people are over 60 than under 15?
     The actions of today’s generations of older people will set the course for decades. Change will happen, one person at a time. So as you begin a new year, envision the steps–small or large–you can take to ensure a long, bright future.
     Invest in yourself by learning something new. Design your world so that healthy habits come naturally. Diversify your social network by befriending a person from a different generation. Start a business that puts others to work. Think creatively about ways that an unprecedented number of mature, talented, healthy adults can address society’s great challenges. Then take a first step to ensure that the big challenges will be addressed. Imagine: If every person over 50 makes a single contribution, the world could be improved immeasurably.
     Note that social science is clear: People are happiest when they feel embedded in something larger than themselves and when they are needed. Let’s demonstrate that older societies are better societies for every age on the planet.

Quality of Life (film)
Image via Wikipedia

We can all make a contribution, no matter our age. Finding our passion in life can prolong its quality. Caring for ourselves, physically and mentally, however, is key to living passionately. Not always easy…

…but something deserving…of our best fight…

………hugmamma.

    

quality of life…lil’ ole’ lady from pasadena

 (SeniorCitizen.jpg)

I think all seniors will agree that as we age we become increasingly aware that the thing we most value, next to loved ones… is quality of life. Without it we’re sitting on the sidelines watching others, and life, pass us by. What gourmet chef wants to be served, rather than preparing the gastronomical feast herself? What athlete wants to be sitting in the bleachers, rather than feeling the rush of adrenalin as he crosses the finish line? What writer wants to read, when she can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?

I’ve come to realize how valuable it is for me to participate in all that daily living offers, rather than just to observe. How I would envy those who could leap from bed, energized to get moving…washing the sleep from their eyes…donning their duds…scooping yogurt mixed with blueberries into their mouths…crouching down to snuggle a precious grandchild or a beloved pet…bounding out the door for a brisk walk amid falling leaves…waving and smiling at neighbors or strangers. Fortunately I can still do all these things, despite setbacks now and again.

Through the years, I’ve watched, listened and learned from my ballerina daughter. She has taught me much about the mechanics of my body and what I need to do to keep it humming along. There are things I can do like eating more healthily (a struggle), exercising (also a struggle), and putting myself in the hands of experts when necessary (a pleasure).

Having recently suffered severe back pain, the onset of which began over a month ago, I am now almost fully recovered. No pain…nada. Thanks to my chiropractor and her trusty adjustor, I can walk, sit, bend, and climb without wincing. And having just seen the physical therapist yesterday, I can already feel the results of the back-strengthening exercises she recommended.

Ford Mustang Convertible

Image by kenjonbro via Flickr

I feel like a broken-down Volkswagon Beetle that went in for an overhaul and drove out…a vintage Ford Mustang! Vroom, vroom, vroom!!!…

…i’m the little old lady from pasadena…go granny, go granny, go granny, go………hugmamma.  😉

four-legged diabetes…yikes!!!

Bad news from the vet yesterday. Juneau, one of our maine-coone-mixed breeds is overweight. At 15 pounds, he’s ripe for developing diabetes it seems. Not that I was surprised since it’s obvious he’s bigger and bulkier than our other cats, Sitka, his litter-mate, and Sunkist. Gosh, even our dog Mocha’s slimmer. So as they say, “today’s a new day.”

Growing up in a home where my mom struggled to feed our family, pets were obviously “low man on the totem pole.” They got leftovers, and probably not a whole lot of them either. And while they had a roof over their heads like we did, they were free to roam the neighborhood, except for the dogs. They were tethered to the outdoor stair railing.

We usually kept only one cat and/or one dog at a time. They were usually strays, or rescues from the animal shelter. When one cat we’d had the longest gave birth to a litter, we kept two of her kittens, especially after their mom, Toby, died. My friend and I found her one day lying in a neighbor’s backyard. She looked malnourished. Of course I felt badly, but my mom couldn’t concern herself with making sure the pets had enough to eat. She could barely keep food on the table for us the entire month. We knew her paycheck had run its course when there were only a few cans of tuna and sardines in the cupboard, along with what remained of the 25-pound bag of rice.

Trey food

Image via Wikipedia

When I married and began adopting cats, I made certain they had lots to eat. I think I fed them a reasonable amount. I didn’t just let them have a go at the cupboards. But until now I’d never heard of anyone feeding each cat separately, in different rooms. That boggles my mind! Not that it doesn’t make sense, considering I now have to do that for Juneau. I only wish I’d have known earlier.

When the vet had done their physicals before, he would ask about the cats eating and potty habits. I couldn’t give him definitive answers, because they ate and went about their “business” without my overseeing them. He never insisted I change this routine, so I didn’t. I think he felt it would be overwhelming with 3 cats. In fact at one time there were 4 cats. One died of cancer a few years ago.

In speaking of my dilemma with the receptionist yesterday, Sandy informed me that she feeds her 3 cats in separate rooms. That way she can keep an eye on one in particular who is a slower eater. She knows the cat’s had enough when it curls up for a nap in the closet. At that point her food bowl is put away until the next feeding. The door to that room is kept closed until meal-time is over. The rooms in which the other cats are fed are not closed because they eat their food in one sitting.

Sandy proceeded to describe her feeding ritual in great detail, down to how many pieces of a certain kibble are given at what meal, and for what snack. As she spoke, waves of fear and nausea overwhelmed me. I felt Juneau was doomed to dying of diabetes if I didn’t get this feeding thing down pat. But after speaking with my husband, we are taking steps toward managing our pets’ weights.

Sitka, who needs to gain weight, and Sunkist who is elderly and needs to maintain her current weight are being fed together as usual. We’re bringing Juneau upstairs in the morning and apportioning him his own special weight loss food, gradually so as not to upset his digestive system. We’re still mixing it in with the “old” food to wean him from it. Juneau will need a little time getting comfortable with the new arrangement. I’m not sure what the final routine will encompass, but we’re taking it one day at a time, now that we know what needs to be done.

The inconvenience is much more attractive than the alternative. Just as I don’t want to encounter the devastating effects of diabetes in my human loved ones, I don’t want our pets succumbing to the disease as well. It would be physically painful for Juneau, emotionally draining for me, not to mention the expense of insulin shots, medication, and constant trips to the vet.

Pets, like children, don’t choose their lot in life. They have no say in when and where they’re born, nor the names they’re given, nor the manner in which their lives unfold. They’re pretty malleable in the beginning. Given a home, nourishment and lots of love and affection, pets and children will flourish. So Juneau is in good hands.

especially now that we’re more attuned to his specific needs…hugmamma.

counting my blessings

On my recent flight home, I overheard a fellow passenger remark “It’s good to get away, but it’s always good to come home…sleep in my own bed.” Amen! Again I say, Amen! So this seems as good a time as any to reflect upon that for which I’m very thankful, beginning with…

  • The memory foam mattress that snuggles up against all the contours of my body, as though I was sleeping on a cloud. Now if only I could lay my brain beside me, so it too could get a good night’s rest. Maybe then I’d slumber peacefully, rather than thinking what next to write.
  • My husband’s affection pulling me into a huge bear hug. Just where I belong, until death do us part…not even then.
  • Crouching down beside Mocha, the doggie “love of my life,” to whisper “sweet nothings” in her ear. 
  • Lovingly stroking the length of Sitka, Juneau and Sunkist, as they stretch up to share their hearts with me.
  • Laying my weary head on my daughter’s shoulder, as she embraces me into the bosom of her “old soul.”
  • Letting my home, still decorated for Christmas, nourish my soul with childhood delights.
  • Reading emails from friends and family, sharing memories, newfound discoveries, and always love and concern.
  • Writing and blogging, journaling my thoughts and feelings, wary of the day when I might not, but thankful for the precious moments of the present.
  • Knowing that I’ve a network of online readers with whom to share my journey is mind-boggling, but a blessing I wholeheartedly welcome.
  • My health, such as it is, keeps me ever mindful that quality of life is fragile, and shouldn’t be compromised by poor choices.
  • The Maui of my childhood, where innocence and naivete abounded, ingrained forever in my moral fiber.
  • My Aloha spirit, my compassion for others, a legacy from my mom and those who came before.
  • The 2 angels who have gently guarded my well-being these last decades of my life, continuing to do so, my husband of 40 years and my daughter of 24.
  • And God above all, who gifted me with life, ensuring my best, knowing He is always with me…ALWAYS.

 

counted your blessings lately?…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.