THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS . . .

NOW

Talk about basting a turkey. When the Kardashians started taking fat from their thighs and injecting it to plump up their lips and butts it sounded pretty disgusting. Lately, however, that fat has been making its’ way into arthritic joints with some pretty impressive, albeit momentary results. Given that I need double knee replacements, this idea appealed to me but only briefly. You see, the problem is that the injected fat not only won’t stay put but ultimately cannot regenerate cartilage. Thus, one is back to where one started.  

Isn’t that the conundrum of life? No matter where we go—there we are. Well, not quite. Stanford neurosurgeon, James Doty, says that we actually spend 80% of our time NOT in the present. We are either regretting something from the past or anticipating something in the future. In essence, we are not ‘here’ at all. We are, as Eckhart Tolle would say, ‘unconscious.’

In “The Power of Now,” Tolle warns that we must rid ourselves of our analytical, egotistical mind and embrace this moment now, with all of our being. “The more you are focused on time—the past or the future—the more you miss the NOW.” The acceptance of what is, he assures us, will bring inner peace and joy. Being ‘present,’ of course, means different things to different people. Even lunatics are convinced of their sanity.

In 1990, my grandmother, deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s, was certain that, “Teddy Roosevelt is president!” Currently, dementia claims the lives of 1 in 3 seniors. So, dear readers, since we are all at risk, let’s be watchful of each other! Mood changes are one of the first signs of mental instability in a loved one. Later, aspects of one’s personality often amplify; a bossy person becomes downright authoritarian or a shy person withdraws completely.

A few months ago, noted biologist, David Goodall, ended his life legally in Switzerland at the age of 104. He was of sound mind and in good health but could no longer do the things that brought him joy. While he lived very in the moment (even singing to the press the day before his death), his own ‘now’ had become dark and empty. Thus, while mine is still joyful, I shall focus on these words as I wish you a warm and very ‘present’ Thanksgiving. Trusting that you will let me know should my syntax start slipping.

P. S.  If this blog feels a bit ‘wandery’ or ‘scattered’ that was exactly the purpose; to capture thoughts as they are thought. 🙂

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INSIDE OUT

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Last week, the Inside Out art project came to my town. Their truck rolled up in front of the library and we, local residents let them take 4’ by 3’, black and white photos of us. These were then pasted on the walkways in front of the library. I was amazed at the diversity of faces. Our art statement didn’t last long as it rained the following day and all became a gray mush. It was a great reminder, though, of the brevity of our lives. That is why it is so important to shine while our light still flickers!

Recently, I spoke to a group on Alzheimer’s. Since all had been (or were), caregivers, I assumed they would ask questions about the disease and its’ progression. Instead, I faced a room full of people terrified that it might happen to them! In fact, one perfectly, healthy woman was actually taking an Alzheimer’s medication in hopes of preventing it before it started!

Considering that 1 million people will have dementia in some form by 2025, their concerns are valid. So, here’s what we know so far: there is NO cure or drug that can really help yet. No. Nothing–so don’t fall for those TV commercials. However, here are a few things we DO know that will give you the best prevention possible:

  1. Smoking increases your dementia risk 30-50%.
  2. Drinking one Coke a day ups your risk by 30%.
  3. Although few of my readers likely play football–watch for blows to the head—they cause inflammation to the nervous system and increase the tau proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.
  4. Keep your blood pressure low.
  5. Playing a musical instrument lowers your risk by 36%. Taking up the harmonica can’t hurt.
  6. Yeah get off your butt—stub out your butt—and no more ifs ands or buts. THIS is the MOST important one!  

 Here’s the mystery of life: the things we plan for rarely happen and the ones we don’t expect often smack us right between the eyes. Considering that 24% of boys born today and 35% of girls will eventually develop dementia, starting healthy behaviors now will have a more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure. Plus, if you wanna see your face plastered up real big, track down the Inside Out Project! Smiling increases longevity and makes you feel good inside and out!

 

 

TOUCHDOWN

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You may find this hard to believe but I just saw my very, first, live, professional football game! The last time I sat in the bleachers was in 1974, during a first date in college. However, by halftime, I told the guy that I’d had enough. (It was also our last date). As for Super bowl parties? I never attended them unless coerced and even then spent every conceivable second in the kitchen or outside listening to the leaves rustle. Anything was better than watching all those big guys run after a ball that I couldn’t even see and then jump on top of each other so hard that it made me wince.

 Until last week I had no clue how the game even worked. So, let me tell you what I learned after just one match: Football is a perfect metaphor for Life.

  1. Once the whistle blows, you only have so much time left.
  2. When you have the ball, you’re always heading for the ‘end zone.’
  3. If you get caught holding the ball, you’ll be sorry.
  4. As you inch towards your goal, some folks will knock themselves out helping you get there. Others will flatten you like a pancake.
  5. There’s always somebody faster, bigger, stronger and younger gaining on you.
  6. If you’re outflanked, you pass the ball to someone else and hope they don’t fumble.
  7. You can play an entire game and never touch the ball once.
  8. You can actually knock people over on purpose and jump right on top of them, if it’s done just so.
  9. You can’t hold on to someone—no matter how much you want to—if they’re not actually holding the ball.
  10. It all starts with a coin toss.

If you can’t play, you can always sit on the sidelines and bark orders at the guys on the field, like the crazed fan behind me did the entire game.  As it happens, I was there to watch a young man I know realize his dream to play in the NFL. Now, the only thing better than chasing your own dreams is watching someone else bring theirs to life. That’s a thrill in itself! My friend played well and as his teammates slapped his butt and gripped his helmet with congratulations, it reminded me of one, more thing:   you don’t do any of it by yourself. Nope, not one, single, solitary yard. Like football, life is a team sport.      

 

 

 

 

FINDING JOY

 

FINDING JOY

I ran into this fabulous, 94 year-old at the Vegas airport last week. Her 10 year-old, great-granddaughter, Gianna, who clearly adored her, was pushing her in a wheelchair.

“Whatcha readin’?” I asked her.

 She grinned and said, “Finding Joy.” Then she thumbed through a few pages, turned the book upside down, shook it and added, “But I can’t find her in here anywhere!” We both cracked up.

Ironically, on the same flight was another woman, also in a wheelchair, who appeared to be at least 10 years younger. She met my attempts to chat with both indifference and a nasty scowl on her face. When it was time to board, she had to wait for an attendant to take her in, so the gate attendant motioned me forward ahead of her. A few moments later as the woman was wheeled towards me in the gangway, she suddenly yelled, “I’m going in there first, you know!”

 “No worries,” I said a bit taken aback. “You’re welcome to go first but believe it or not, we’re all going to get there at the same time.” Others laughed but she didn’t find that funny at all.

 Just then, my new friend, Elaine came rolling up with Gianna.

 “Let’s all sit together!” she said with a big grin.

 “I’d love that,” I replied. “Now are we gonna sit in the cabin or do you want a seat on the wing? It does get a bit windy out there but the view’s much better.”

 “Oh, Let’s sit on the wing!” she said with glee, playing along with my silliness.

 And in a sense, we did sit there.  For isn’t it the wings that lift you soaring into the clouds? Without them, a plane would never leave the ground. Likewise, without joy, we are inexorably left with the heaviness of our own sorrows like that bitter woman. Some folks can find joy under a dusty rock. Others wouldn’t know it if you dumped it in their lap but my new friend, Elaine?  She carries it with her wherever she goes. 

 

 

 

 

MY INSPIRATIONS

94Recently, a young man came backstage to chat with me after a performance. As he left, he suddenly gushed, “Ms. Hudson, this was great. I just love talking to old people!” While the others around me were a bit shocked, I was quite tickled and replied, “Well, Jason, I just love talking to young ones!”

 Growing up, my grandmother was always my greatest inspiration. She was drinking carrot juice and doing yoga long ahead of her time. One afternoon, when she was 70 and I was 17, she suddenly appeared in the kitchen wearing tap shoes. I’d been moping around the house and knew that she was trying to cheer me up.  She began to hop-step-flap-ball change her way through a very, nifty, ‘time step.’  That vision of her with her gray ponytail bouncing up and down still makes me smile.

As a kid I looked up to older people and sought them out for advice. Now that I am the ‘older’ person, there are a lot fewer ahead of me than there used to be. Nevertheless, I still look to them for both encouragement and hope. Here are just some of the inspirations in my life right now: a 94 year-old with the figure of a teenager who chats everyone up while sipping her iced chai latte and grocery shopping; an 80 year-old who took up daily workouts for the first time ever after her husband passed away and a 70-something couple who only recently found each other and are now inseparable.

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Recently, I had the happy fortune of spending the weekend with three, young couples. One has just had their first child. The other is expecting their first and the latter are engaged to marry. It was déjà vu as I, too, once walked those very roads. I marveled at their energy and fresh faces despite sleepless nights. I was hugely impressed by the equality with which all three seem to navigate their relationships. Mostly, I just gasped at how quickly I went from their age to mine.  At the end of the weekend, one of them told me that I was, ‘an inspiration’ to him because of my energy and enthusiasm for life.  At first, I was surprised but then very grateful. For his compliment is now a great motivation to keep me charging forward with a big smile on my face!!

SURPRISE!!!

Broken Chair

Last week, one of my tennis partners and I found ourselves in a heart to heart talk about aging. Her husband recently had a stroke and can’t speak. She is his fulltime caregiver. “There are so many years behind me,” she said sadly, “and so much fewer ahead.”  So true.

 A few days later, a friend confided, “Aging is hard. I never knew it would be this hard. Sometimes I wonder if I have the strength for it.” She just got out of the hospital after what she thought was a routine bronchitis, which she’d had before. This time, she couldn’t shake it alone.

 Another emailed after taking a cruise to say that he had, “really wanted to hike through Europe” but feared his legs might not hold him up. Instead, he “saw it mostly through my cabin window.” Still another told me that she is, “terrified of falling.   I’ve put night-lights every six feet in my house. If I fall again, I’m dead. That’s it.” She recently had a hip replaced and the recovery took almost a year.

 I could chalk my friends off as being ‘alarmists’ or ‘overly pessimistic,’ but they echo my own sentiments. I, too, have set myself a daily routine to maximize safety and minimize stress. I swim, but only so far, so as not to overtax my shoulders. I walk, but avoid hills, so as not to overstress my knees. I eat healthy, nap, meditate, do mild yoga, read enlightening books and practice music daily to keep my synapses sharp.

 However, all of this moderation only carries one so far. There is no accounting for the surprises that life can throw your way. This afternoon, I made a salad and went outside to enjoy it in the sunshine. As I sat down on the chair, the seat underneath me gave way. Not only did I jolt my joints but my lovely salad spread itself all over the pavement.

 Apparently, there’s good reason for all of us to take extra precautions. Right now, the accidental death rate is up 12% in the US. Why? Falls among the elderly and drug overdoses. Shakespeare, describing impending death in Hamlet said this: “And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” For now, I’ve decided to appreciate those ‘shocks.’ It means that I’m still here to tell you about them.  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

THE SKINNY ON FAT

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 15 years ago, my doctor put me on a low fat diet because my cholesterol was high. I followed it for a good 12 years, just long enough to watch my hair thin, my fuse shorten and my memory fuzz. It barely put a dent in my cholesterol, although my good cholesterol dropped and my bad zoomed skywards.

 In the last 30 years, Americans have lowered their fat intake by 10% yet obesity has doubled and heart disease remains the #1 killer! Due to a flawed study in the 70’s, (which did not take into account, smoking, carbohydrate intake and exercise), we were led to believe that high fat cholesterol foods are bad for us. Not true.

 Science has now discovered:

  1. DHA & EPA, the 2 omega-3 fatty acids in fish—are more effective than psychotherapy and antidepressants in treating depression.
  2. The fats in fish can improve symptoms of ADHD in children.
  3. Omega-3’s have been found to reduce acts of aggression among prisoners.
  4. The National Institute of Health found that members of the US military with the lowest omega-3 levels also have the highest risk of committing suicide.
  5. Your brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol to function well! People who eat more saturated fat reduce their rate for developing dementia by 36%.
  6. Healthy saturated fat reduces inflammation and encourages the liver to dump its’ own fat cells which makes it function more effectively.
  7. Saturated fatty acids, especially those found in butter and coconut, help white blood cells to recognize and destroy invading viruses and bacteria.
  8. Eating fat, particularly avocadoes, regulates the production of sex hormones, helps to repair tissue, preserves muscle and improves sexual function.
  9. Polyunsaturated fats, which the body can’t make, are essential for normal body functions. They reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL.

 According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating good quality high-fat foods will prevent the rising epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and reverse the growing numbers of people suffering weight-related heart problems. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: 46,835 women were instructed to eat a low-fat diet. After 8 years, there was only a 1-pound difference in weight from their fat-eating sisters and there was ZERO difference in their heart disease, cancer or death rates. So, excuse me while I go munch my macadamias.