Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Films Now & Then

Movie Still from It's a Wonderful Life by S_Herman.
My kids' definition of "Classic Christmas Movie" and mine differ quite a bit.

If you want an exhaustive list with a very loose definition of "Christmas," go here

My favorites are the made-for-television, stop-animation movies done by Rankin-Bass in the 1960s as well as black & white films released in theaters in the 1940s.

But I make room on my list for three newer films: A Christmas Story (1983), A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), and Love Actually (2003).

Otherwise, I'm holding the line.

So let's take a trip down memory lane and look at a list of Christmas movies. These are the ones our family enjoys the most--listed from most recent to most classic.


Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Top Ten Posts

Photo by Caroline.
As the year draws to a close, I'm taking the time to review the Top 10 posts for 2014.

I've done this for previous years, as well:


2013 Top Ten Posts

I wrote over 100 posts in 2014.  I've listed the top 10 most viewed posts written this calendar year in descending order, with the most popular post at the top.

credit

1. Aging Films to Watch Next



credit

2. Films about Aging, Part II, M-Z




3. Books about Dementia



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Death In Slow Motion: Book Review

Published February 3, 2004
Eleanor Cooney admired her mother Mary Durant for being cool, stylish, intelligent and sophisticated.  Her mother's core personality traits were dismantled once Alzheimer's Disease started to take its toll.

In her memoir Death in Slow Motion  (2004), Cooney relays an enormous amount of detail regarding her mother's illness and its affect on Eleanor.  Despite Eleanor's best efforts, her mother was lonely, grieving, agitated, clingy, weepy, and complaining.

Interspersed between accounts of Mary's hardships are details about her interesting and sophisticated life during the decades prior.

Mary worked as a writer, editor and for a time a model. She lived in New York City for a time before residing for decades in Washington, Connecticut.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Live On. Give On.


Click on the image to meet the 10 award winners.
This post is sponsored by Medtronic.

What do many people do when they receive the gift of prolonged life?

They use that extra time to help others.

Service is at the heart of the Bakken Invitation--hosted by Medtronic.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read about the 10 Honorees for 2014. They are recipients of medical technologies. And they are using their extended life to help others.

To read about all 10 Honorees who demonstrate the concept of  "Live On. Give On," see THIS PAGE.

I am inspired by all of the recipients, but I would like to highlight the work of the most senior recipient for 2014.

 At 77, Mumbai, India resident Rajnikant Reshamwala enjoys improved vitality since receiving two stents as a treatment for his coronary artery disease in January of 2013.

A life-long volunteer, Rajnikant used his $20,000 prize money to support Sleeping Children Around the World.

This charity provides mattresses, pillows and sheets for children so that they can have the physical, emotional and intellectual benefits of a deep, restful sleep.

Rajnikant makes this observation:

"Helping others will satisfy your own soul, too."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sleep-inducing Foods

Photo by nonelvis.
Just as some foods and drinks can cause insomnia, others can help induce sleep.  My own experience tells me that oatmeal over warm milk and topped with walnuts and a banana makes me sleepy. But after doing some reading, I have greater insight into why these foods make me sleepy.

This post is part of a series on insomnia.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scar Tissue: Book Review

Published January 1, 1993
In 1993 Canadian author and politician Michael Ignatieff published a novel about a family's response to early onset dementia.  Scar Tissue was short listed for the Booker prize the following year.

Armed with this information, I decided to track down a copy of the book.  The narrator is one of two siblings adjusting to their mother's increased confusion.  The family also includes their father, a soil scientist and an immigrant from Russia. The mother is a painter.

The two brothers take different approaches to their mother's illness as influenced by their vocations.

The narrator is a philosopher. He saturates himself in images, emotions and theories. He mulls over the way dementia alters a sense of self, relationships and the ability to cast one's own life into a narrative.  He's on a never-ending quest for meaning.

His brother takes a more pragmatic approach by trying to identify the disease as it alters the material landscape of the brain.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Wrinkles: Film Review

Released 2012
Wrinkles (2012) is an 89 minute animated film that focuses on the friendship between Emilio and Miguel, roommates residing in the same multi-level care center.

Emilio is a family man and a retired banker--cautious and methodical.  Miguel is a free spirit, always looking out for number one.

Although a Spanish film originally, there is an English-language version.  Emilio is voiced by Martin Sheen, Miguel by George Coe.

The film also introduces a handful of supporting cast members, mainly those living and working in the same facility.

Yes, this is an animated film, but it shouldn't be mistaken for a children's story. It takes a fairly realistic approach to depicting the challenges some people face in late life.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tales of a Geriatrician: Book Review

1st Edition Published 30 November 2012.
2nd Edition Published 12 September 2014.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Now that I have the advantage of several decades of experience myself as a person in midlife, I find myself very interested in learning from people who have an expertise that differs from mine.

For this reason, I was eager to read David Bernstein's book, based on decades of practice as a geriatrician in Clearwater, Florida.

The long title of his book provides a great overview:

I've Got Some Good News and Some Bad News: You're Old.  Tales of a Geriatrician. What to Expect in Your 60s, 70s, 80s and Beyond. 


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Since Otar Left: Film Review

Released 17 September 2003
Jim, a filmmaker acquaintance of mine, recently recommended Since Otar Left (2003) to me, so I moved it to the top of my viewing list.  The fact that it won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes the year it was released certainly didn't dissuade me from viewing it.

Let me start with the end: I bawled for a good twenty minutes when the movie concluded.  It gave me a greater appreciation for the strengths that older adults often possess -- but that others often fail to acknowledge.

I don't want to spoil the movie.  Just rent it. I will tell you that it's an art house film.  The pacing is slow, and the significant details are more subtle.   It contains an essence of realism, in my opinion, mimicking the way most of us experience life in small details that become significant through reflection.

In an effort to retain the film's power, my review has to be a bit vague.  Let me just draw your attention to a few aspects of the film.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Levy's Research on Positive Stereotypes

Photo by Marg.
"To keep the heart  unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent--that is to triumph over old age." ~ Thomas Baily Aldrich
I confess to reversing my usual process for writing a post. This time, I first found the wonderful photograph above, and then I went looking for a matching idea. The photograph conveys the power of a positive attitude, so I started looking for research correlating positive thinking with longevity. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Phyllis Sues, Active at 91

Photo by Zabara Alexander.
Today I stumbled across a slideshow about 91-year-old dancer, actress, fashion designer, and music composer, Phyllis Sues.

I decided to spend some time learning more about her.

Born April 4, 1923, Phyllis has been active for decades, but her recent activities include the following:

Friday, November 28, 2014

King Lear: One Play, Two Views

"King Lear and Cordelia" by Edward Matthew Ward
Photographed by Sofi
One of the joys of aging occurs when I revisit works of literature after a decade or two. I find that rereading a novel, poem, short story or play gleans new insights based on generational perspective.

Shakespeare's Hamlet, Williams' Streetcar Named Desire, Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Illych" and Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" are just a few of the works that look different to me when I reread them at midlife.

Most notably, my perspective on Shakespeare's  King Lear changed when I reread it in my fifties.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Oak: Poem

Photo by
Bob Gutowski.
I'm interested in poetry that focuses on aging.  Here Tennyson uses the four seasons to describe how people experience life stages.

The Oak

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Summer-rich
Then; and then
Autumn-changed
Sober-hued
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Naked Strength.

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Elsa y Fred: Spanish-language Original

Released July 28, 2005
I've long had Elsa y Fred (2005) in my Netflix queue (the Spanish-language film). But with the recent release of an English-language adaptation, I decided to finally get around to viewing the original.

Manuel Alexandre plays the reserved Fred opposite China Zorrilla's impulsive Elsa.  They meet when recently widowed Fred moves into her apartment building.

Elsa lives in the moment, pursuing pleasures and contorting the truth to suit her needs.  Fred lives in constant fear that something bad might happen, so he is very risk averse. Elsa is constantly challenging him to loosen up, seize the day and enjoy life--starting with enjoying her company.

While their relationship provides regular conflict, they also have to manage outside forces.  Elsa and Fred both have adult children who are trying to manage their lives--for good or for ill.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Being Mortal: Book Review

Published 7 October 2014.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End was published in October of this year, and it's been getting very high praise.

Surgeon, teacher, speaker and author Atul Gawande fashions a book about the difficulties many people face in their last months of life.

Advances in medicine have given people a myriad of options in how to address serious illness, particularly cancer.

When should patients work with medical professionals to intervene and when should patients refrain?

In other words, should people aggressively pursue every avenue for extending life despite the low probability of success and without considering the hardship that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery might create?

Other questions posed by the book: When should patients pursue less aggressive treatment options? And when should they switch from life-saving care to comfort care?


Friday, November 21, 2014

Grateful for Aging

An aging flower still has beauty. Photo by Theen Moy.
When I decided to study gerontology five years ago, my intent was to combat aging as a formidable foe.  After 20-30 hours a week focused on the topic of aging, I'm often grateful to be getting older.

This post is part of a Midlife Boulevard blog hop. The thumbnails below will disappear after a while, so I'm saving a handful for future reference. Enjoy! 


This Thanksgiving season gives me occasion to explain what I mean.  Let me list the blessings of aging:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Grace in Aging: Book Review

Published 5 August 2014.
I'm going to review this book before I fully digest it. Let me explain.

In The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older, Kathleen Dowling Singh presents a series of meditations that invites people in midlife and late life to become mindful about the aging process.

Singh has a rich background as a transpersonal psychologist, hospice worker, and frequent lecturer on the spiritual aspects of dying.  She grew up Catholic and then left the faith to study Buddhism. She now resists that label--or any other. "I guess at this point I don't see a need for a label."

Her writing draws from wisdom literature from a variety of traditions.  Her book requires slow reading with frequent pauses for meditation, journaling and transformation of thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Alz Awareness Month

Photo by Mitch.
A sponsored post on behalf of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute.

Modern medicine has enjoyed sweet success in preventing and treating a number of diseases.

People are living longer because there have been great strides in addressing heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.

However, there is still no cure for Alzheimer's Disease  (AD), which is currently the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.  Consider wearing a purple ribbon!

It's a good time to focus on the prevalence of the disease and to learn about some ongoing work to prevent and cure AD in the near future.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Better with Age: Book Review

Published 16 September 2014.
[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.] 

This fall,l aptly named Spry Publishing has released a practical guide to negotiating the second half of life.

I had the opportunity to read Robin Porter's Better With Age: Your Blueprint for Staying Smart, Strong, and Happy for Life.

More and more people are living to 80 and beyond. But are we making preparations before late adulthood for such longevity?

This book is aimed at readers in midlife (or for long-range planning young adults).   The bulk of the chapters are organized by decade transitioning from midlife to late life.

Here is the table of contents:


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alive Inside: Film Review

Limited Release 18 July 2014
Available on DVD 18 Nov 2014
I wasn't able to sleep in Sunday morning, despite the opportunity to "fall back" with Daylight Savings Time.

With an extra hour on my hands, I decided to watch the 78-minute documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory (2014).

I wept through the entire film.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows Dan Cohen, founder of Music and Memory for three years as Cohen gives people with dementia personalized iPods.

Cohen asks people with dementia or their caregivers, "What are your favorite songs?"  Then he builds a playlist around those songs and gives people their own iPod and set of headphones.

When residents hear their favorite music from bygone decades, the "come alive" with an increase in their language, movement, memory and social engagement.  These scenes were very moving.

Some people might remember seeing this clip of Henry, uploaded to youtube in November 2011--three years in advance of the film's completion.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Daily or Weekly Weigh Ins?

Photo by Kiss My Buttercream.
After about a two months hiatus, I stepped on the scale today.  Yikes!  I've gained five pounds since Labor Day.

Now, this may not sound like a lot of weight, but I am less than five feet tall (about 141 cm).

Also, the timing is a bit shocking.  I'm going into the holiday season with a little Santa's bowl full of jelly.

I am too cheap to buy new clothes, so I need to trim down, or I won't fit into my clothes by the end of the winter.

I should probably start with a food journal so that I can be more honest about what I'm really eating.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chocolate & Flavanols

Photo by Olga Valisjeva.
Since Nature Neuroscience published an article Sunday, October 26th (online) about the positive effects of cocoa on memory, I've seen dozens of news stories heralding this finding.

Before people start consuming truckloads of chocolate bars, let's take a closer look at elements of their research.

First, the study wasn't aimed at finding the health benefits of chocolate as much as it was aimed at isolating the role of one region of the brain in memory and one type of memory--episodic.

Specifically, the authors were looking at the dentate gyrus, a region of the hyppocampus that allows neurogenesis or the growth of new brain cells.

In their abstract, their conclusion was focused on the brain region and not the role of the cocoa drink:

"Our findings establish that DG dysfunction is a driver of age-related cognitive decline."

Studies of this part of the brain and their function in memory and new brain cell grown are still very young--measured in years and not even decades.


Monday, October 27, 2014

3 Karens on the Track

Photo by Heikki Siltala.
Another trip to the YMCA where I'm measuring my pace against Father Time.  After an injury last fall followed by an illness in the winter, I got lazy about getting to the gym.  In 2013, I had been spending about 10 hours a week at the gym doing a combination of cardio, yoga and strength training.  I was moving so fast that I figured Father Time would consider me "outta sight, outta mind."  

Not so fast. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Chast's Graphic Novel: A Book Review

Published 6 May 2014.
Growing old has some great benefits. Frailty is not one of them.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast focuses her talents on describing her parents' journey into late adulthood--their 90s.  And it's not pretty.

The title of her book actually defers potential readers: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014).

So why read a graphic novel about the challenges of supporting frail parents?

Even if you aren't going to support parents or a spouse through this process, you will have friends going through some of the things that Chast draws and narrates.

But you won't have the exact same journey. Chast is the only child of parents who lived for decades in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leaving Tinkertown: Book Review

Published August 15, 2013.
Even very focused memoirs end up tackling a variety of topics. This is true of Tanya Ward Goodman's 2013 memoir, Leaving Tinkertown.

I chose to read it because it fits in with a category of books that I have labeled "dementia memoirs."  I value reading about the challenges and opportunities of hanging onto a relationship affected by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Goodman focuses her memoir around the six years that her father, Ross Ward, lived with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Her account discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and progression through the major stages of the disease.  It serves as a valuable road map for caregivers.

Even though there are some similarities from one dementia memoir to another, each account shows how the journey is unique to each person and their loved ones.

In the pages of her memoir, Goodman introduces us to her nonconformist father who is driven to create. He has spent decades drawing, painting and sculpting.  He spent some time on the road, painting for carnivals.  However, his major work took form as a miniature town dubbed "Tinkertown."  Ward carved the inhabitants and set up a roadside museum that is still in operation in New Mexico, just north of Albuquerque.


I received a copy of Leaving Tinkertown from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Going Gray at Midlife

Photo by Roberto Trm.
One of the physical markers of age is the appearance of gray hair.

I went through that rite of passage in my late 30s.  When I bought my first house and gave birth to my two children and decided to stop pulling my gray hairs.

Did these big life events bring about the gray? It's difficult to know for sure.

I've been coloring my hair for over 30 years (minus the five years I was either pregnant or nursing).  Recently I decided to stop coloring away the gray.  I'm only 52.

Why am I going gray at midlife?  Many midlife women color away the gray.  Many women in late life color their hair. Why would I want to look older?

I have a handful of reasons.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Soap: An Aging Image

Every once and a while, I am particularly struck by an image of aging.

Most recently,  I have been turning over in my mind this image from Luci Shaw's poem, "The Door, The Window."*

"The minutes / wear me away--a transparent bar of glycerin soap, / a curved amber lozenge dissolving in daily basins of water." 

I like the combination of beauty and utility in this image as well as the passing of time marked by the wearing thin of a bar of soap.

This image will stay with me for a long time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Class and Women Writers

Photo by Filip.
I spent over a decade in college studying English language and literature and then more time than that teaching undergraduates how to read, write, and think critically.

Now that I have left that career to be a gerontologist, I'm reading more books about aging, including a great deal of nonfiction about related topics of caregiving, living with an illness, late-life career changes, economic issues of aging, humor pieces, managing grief and gleaning wisdom and spiritual insight in late life.  

I try to read broadly on the topic of aging, but sometimes I discover big gaps in my reading selections.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Foods that Induce Insomnia

Photo by Mike Sheard.
Because I've been having a little trouble with insomnia, I am writing one post a month on the topic.

By reading about and then writing about insomnia, I hope to gain better control over my sleep habits.

Lately I have been paying closer attention to foods and beverages that contribute to insomnia.

Also, I've noted that insomnia is at times a matter of quantity and timing of "neutral" (neither soporific nor stimulating) foods and drinks,

However, there are certainly some items that have inherent quality of alertness.

Foods / Drinks to Avoid

Caffeine.  The biggest insomnia culprit is probably caffeine. It's the most obvious to people as well.  Nevertheless, people can mismanage their caffeine intake.  The time necessary for caffeine to leave your system varies. Estimates range from 4 to 6 hours on one end of the spectrum and up to 14 hours on the other end.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grey Gardens: 1975 Documentary

Big Edie & Little Edie
Photo by Slagheap.
For the last five years, I've been viewing and reviewing films that feature older adults.

For this reason, I have long had the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens in my "to be viewed" queue (along with 170+ others).

After being nudged by the bloggers at Dementia Mama Drama to see this Grey Gardens (1975), I finally moved this cult classic to the top of my queue.

The documentary shows a mother and daughter living in a decaying mansion in East Hampton, New York.

The film contains relevance for me because the 58-year-old daughter "Little Edie" serves as a caregiver for her 80-year-old mother "Big Edie."  (These are their ages during filming.)  Many posts I write are aimed at midlife adults who are supporting their older adult parents with age-related issues.

However, I am not sure how to respond to the documentary.

Little Edie. Photo by Slagheap.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Women's Voices on Spirituality & Aging

Photo by Alberto G.
Yesterday I scoured through the list of books I've read in the last five years, pulling together a subset of books on spirituality and aging.

After I finished the list of 8 books that fit squarely in that category, I was astonished to see only one female author among them.

Where are the women writing about spirituality and aging?

Women's Voices on Caregiving

I do agree with the French feminists that women tend to write more grounded works and tend to write from the body and from personal experience.  It follows that spirituality would be grounded in daily tasks of relating to other people in the domestic sphere.

In other words, we find the divine by serving one another through human interaction more than by solitary meditations.

A number of the dementia memoirs I've read have applied theology in them, particularly Debra Shouse's Love in the Land of Dementia (2013).


Monday, September 29, 2014

Books on Aging & Spiritual Growth

Photo by King of Monks.
After spending decades journeying through life, many people end up gaining great spiritual insight. The cliche about elders being wise holds true for many older adults.

Because the generations are more isolated from each other in industrialized nations than they are in traditional cultures, this hard-won wisdom isn't always present in every home.

Fortunately, a number of insightful people in midlife and late life are writing books that offer thought-provoking commentary on how to respond to life's challenges--including challenges that are often correlated with late life: illness, death of loved ones, loss of employment. 

But advanced age is not all decay.  Our youth-obsessed culture often reads it as such, missing out on the strengths of a half-century-plus view of life. 

Here are a few books that I have read that contain insight found after 50--listed in reverse chronology by publication date. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Falling Upward: Book Review

Published January 1, 2011.
I've been reading more intentionally about the second half of life for the past four years.

Recently, I've been choosing books from Changing Aging's recommended list of books that depict aging as a period of growth and development. 

This week, I've been reading Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass 2011). 

Rohr describes life as having two distinct and opposing tasks. 

The first half of life is dedicated to building a self that is based on goals, accomplishments and ego.  

But many people end up learning how short-sighted life is when defined this way. Consequently, many adopt the task in the second half of life of transcending narcissism, accomplishments, material security and the vanities of the temporal world.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Still Mine: Film Review

Released on DVD in the USA
May 6, 2014
Because I watch a lot of films featuring older adults, I note various choices made in each film. For example, the point of view can determine a great deal about the way characters are portrayed and themes are established.

Some films adopt the point of view of adult children, as does The Savages (2007) , Big Fish (2003) and Marvin's Room (1996).  

Other times an ensemble cast allows a multigenerational perspective, as is present in Is Anybody There (2008), Checking Out (2005) and Nothing in Common (1986). 

Because I am trying to empathize more with the challenges and opportunities of advanced age, I value films that adopt the point of view of older adults.

Still Mine, with a 2013 limited release in Canada, takes such a viewpoint.  Available in the US on DVD this year, I finally took the opportunity to watch it. 

James Cromwell plays Craig Morrison, an octogenarian who decides to build a one-story home for his wife, Irene--played by Genevieve Bujold.   She has dementia and struggles to manage the stairs in their two-story farm house. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Maslow Is a Liar

I see beauty in chaos in this photo by J.E.F.
Introduction to psychology courses nearly always include some attention to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

From the start of the life span, people usually master each of these needs in ascending order.

People establish physical needs, then social needs and finally more abstract needs, such as self-actualization.

As we age, however, we do not reduce our lives in order from the highest needs down to the most basic needs.  Before I studied gerontology, I expected to see an orderly movement in reverse order as people age.

The aging process is more chaotic than I imagined.

Each person's aging process is unique to them.   And even though some patterns in how people age might emerge in large studies, the aging process of just one person is largely unpredictable.

However, the more I interact with older adults, the more I observe how people can hold onto higher order tasks--spirit, beauty, knowledge and relationships--even as their bodies start to betray them.

Maslow's Hierarchy fails to serve as a model for the aging process.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Am I Old or Am I Young? Quote

Photo by Luc B.
"Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age."  ~ Hosea Ballou

Because I am a gerontologist, people ask me directly or indirectly, "Am I old?"

Well, there isn't an easy answer to that question.

Last week I talked with an administrator at a local university who was telling me he was a lot older than people imagined.

Older? He's in his mid 30s.

Because I regularly socialize with people who are twice or three times his age, I perceive him as young--even though he is twice the age of an incoming university student.

From his perspective, he exemplifies Ballou's first clause in this post's epigraph:  "Forty is the old age of youth."


Friday, September 19, 2014

Many Paws: Book Review

Published January 2014.
 "There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."  Washington Irving, The Sketch Book, 1820

I love a good book.  This week I had had the opportunity of interacting with Susan DeGarmo's 2014 book Many Paws: The Years of Change.   I am grateful that I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

And I was intrigued, amused and inspired by this creative, light-hearted look at menopause.

Intrigued. I'm saying "interacting" with Many Paws rather than "reading" since DeGarmo's book is an example of an "altered book."

This a form of book that explodes in the reader's hands with an array of colors, textures and interactive features.

Luggage tags for the journey of life.
When I first opened the book I couldn't decide whether to read it quickly or slowly.

Many Paws has many surprises, and I didn't want to miss out. Yet I was also eager to discover each detail.

For example, one of the the sections features a set of 6 luggage tags, each containing lines of a poem about the physical changes of menopause. (Pictured)

The third tag reads, "Can't lose weight / Running Late / What is it I'm Forgetting??"


Friday, September 12, 2014

Share Music Videos with Others

Photo by Steve. 
Once a week I spend the afternoon with a dozen friends at a local skilled nursing center.

Sometimes we have a lull in an activity we're doing together. 

When this happens, I always offer to sing as a way to fill the time. 

They howl, "No, don't do that."  

This week we were joking about our day being a stereotypical Monday.  One of the residents asked me if I knew the song "Monday. Monday," released in 1966.  

Again, I volunteered to sing. Olivia protested, "Nooooo!"  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Leisure World Cohort Turning 90

Photo by Ryan Dickey.
I was on my way to yoga last week, when I saw one of my husband's co-workers, lifting weights at the same gym.

After sharing our fitness goals, J.V. told me about a story featured on 60 Minutes about longevity.

J.V. remembered that some of the most recent findings encouraged 45 minutes of moderate exercise (with no benefit for more than that).

In addition, he told me that I didn't have to worry too much about becoming  a rail. Why?

The study found that a little extra weight for older adults correlated to longevity when compared to those who were thin.

This information goaded me to find the segment "Living to 90 and Beyond" online.


It did emphasize that obesity is not good for people in any life stage. In fact, those in midlife who were obese had more negative outcomes. But once people age into the oldest stages, a little extra weight was a good thing.

But the issue of weight was just the fact that led me to this goldmine of research.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Emotional Causes for Insomnia

Photo "Scratching" by Kevin of sheep counting people
As promised, here I am writing about insomnia.  Yes, midlife women might have a bit more trouble sleeping during perimenopause, but the causes can be complex and might affect women and men of all ages.

Let me focus first on emotional causes for insomnia and some basics on how to 1) identify an emotion 2) trace its origins 3) neutralize it, and 4) gain habits that prevent or remove insomnia-inducing emotions before bedtime.

1. What emotion am I feeling? People can experience a variety of emotions that interfere with sleep--anger, fear, worry, sadness.  Even positive emotions such as euphoria can prevent people from getting a good night's sleep.  When I have trouble sleeping, I do well to reflect on the emotions I am feeling.   Here is the Plutchik Wheel, just one list of emotions, some of which interfere with sleep:

Image of the Plutchik Wheel by Machine Elf 1735

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exercise Enlightens

Photo by Raja Sambaslvan.
Going to the gym gives me a good workout--body, mind and soul. If I get myself to the gym, I improve my physical fitness, my cognition, and my peace of mind.

It took me a while to recognize that the gym at time offers me spiritual enlightenment. It's not just the endorphins talking.  The gym offers some insights about life when I take the time to notice.

Photo by Bob Cotter.
1. We are all equal at the gym.  All people are equal when faced with fundamental tasks such as walking on a treadmill.

It doesn't matter how old we are, where we live, how much education we have, or what we do for a living.  The only question is this: can I move my feet to keep pace?

From time to time, I look around at all the people on the cardio machines or all the people in the exercise class and feel great unity with them. We are all united in our quest for greater physical fitness.

I sometimes want to break out in song.  But that would spoil the moment, so I just note the swelling in my heart and smile.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Objects that Mark Time

Photo by Tim Ellis. 
I'm often so consumed by my day-to-day tasks that I fail to note the passing of time. But there are moments that make me very aware.

Yes, clocks and calendars help me mark time.

But I also see a few objects around me that help me realize that time is leaving its mark on various objects--including me!

I experienced a keen awareness of time earlier this week when I visited my centenarian friend Gladys Bever, b. 1910.

Gladys & one of her mother's paintings
Her son Harold Bever had come to visit the same day. Harold carried with him a painting that his maternal grandmother had painted.

Glady's mother is Harriet "Hattie" Amy Leet Beilby Oakley. Here is a link to her grave marker.

Harriet was married twice, having been widowed when Ralph Wright Beilby (b. 1871) died in 1904.

Gladys is Harriet's child from her second marriage, which was to Amasa George Oakley (b. 1874, d. 1932).

Here is a link to the 1920 census record for Glady's family when she was 9 years old.

What struck me most that day was realizing that Glady's mother was born in 1873.