mice to men

I must be getting cranky in my older age when I am far more excited about a scientific discovery than in watching one, more ridiculous political debate. The real, ‘movers and shakers,’ we should be paying attention to are those who make the world a more beautiful place, not an uglier and more divided one.

So here’s the news: researchers in Australia have been able to restore brain function in mice! Granted, people are not mice, (though some politicians imply otherwise.). These scientists have been able to use a type of ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves gently open up the blood-brain barrier, (which is the layer that protects the brain against bacteria), and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglial cells are the waste-removal cells. Once activated, they are able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s!

This is crazy, wild, cutting-edge science and I am intrigued. Granted, by the time my own brain may have amyloid plaque it may be too late. However, imagine the possibilities for future generations. Frankly, I would rather pin my hopes on this kind of science than on any present, political candidate. So, don’t look for a sign in my yard or on my bumper with someone else’s name on it. My vote goes to those who actually make our lives better and more beautiful. And from artist to zoologist, you know who you are.


Put it on an iPod and Plug in!

jj on motorcycle

Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, once said that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Recently, opera singer turned neuroscientist, Linda Maguire, researched using music for those with failing cognition. “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s. They can’t follow life or conversations. They don’t remember people. They get lost and confused. But because the part of the brain that internalizes music remains healthy, they can follow music.” 

Maguire’s study revealed 5 important benefits of music:

  1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.
  2. Music is a way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.
  3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness. With dementia, patients often lost the ability to express emotions.  Through music, if they are ambulatory, they can even dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching, which brings security and memories.
  4. Singing engages both mind and body. It gives you better posture, better oxygenation and stimulates tissue because the heart and lungs literally vibrate.
  5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions. 

Maguire’s study says that three of the most therapeutic songs are: “The Sound of Music,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It also suggests that if you are caring for an elderly person, to compile a playlist of songs that were popular when they were 18-25 years old. Put it on an iPod and plug them in!!

On that note, I leave you with, “I Wanna Die Young,” a song I wrote inspired by my grandmother. That is she pictured above on the back of a Harley in her 70’s. She is the same girl that still sang “Happy Birthday” to me at age 93, long after she had forgotten who I was.






Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, says that music “utilizes more parts of the brain,” than any other activity we engage in. In the documentary, “Alive Inside,” he also notes that music is “one of the last things” to leave a memory destroyed by Alzheimer’s.

After watching the film myself, I decided to put together my own playlist on my iPod. I wanted songs that I liked to sing along with, like Don Henly’s, “The Boys of Summer.” I also wanted songs I listened to on my transistor radio when I was a kid, like Del Shannon’s, “Runaround Sue.” Then I added songs that make me nostalgic, like Karla Bonoff’s, “Wild Heart of the Young.” Couldn’t forget my husband’s and my dating song, Roger Voudoris’s, “Get Used To It.” I threw in some Barbra Streisand and lots of Chopin for good measure. No play list is complete without “In a Gada da Vida,” by Led Zeplin, which I added simply so I could impress the other nursing home residents with my mastery of the drum solo. Lastly, I added lots of Michael Jackson songs, because he just makes me want to dance!

Guess you could say I’m prepared. Now, I might be lucky and never lose my memory, but if I do? I hope someone puts those headphones on me and pushes, “PLAY.” Then look out, because in all modesty, I still do a pretty darn good, “moonwalk.” Just ask the passengers on that Southwest flight from San Francisco to Nashville last week. Oh yeah…. And if you have any song ideas of your own that I should add, post them here. I’m still a work in progress.




man with flag

I had a BLAST being young. At 18, flying north on the Black Canyon Freeway headed out of Phoenix I remember the rush when I floored the car to 100 mph. It was thrilling and scary but once I hit 100 I eased off the gas. I wanted to live to tell about it. Still do.

Frankly I don’t ‘get’ this bucket list thing. Why wait until you’re old to do all the things you wanted to do? By the time you’re my age, they’re all gonna be harder to do. I went skydiving in my 20’s but you couldn’t get me in a plane with no door and push me out with a parachute now. My knees couldn’t take it, let alone my failing heart.

That’s why TODAY is so important. You will never be this young again. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro or go “Dancing With the Stars,” go now. If you want to change careers, change NOW. There is absolutely, unequivocally nothing to lose; nothing, of course, but time. And we all know who IT waits for: NO ONE!

I love that I took chances when I was young. Sometimes they were teeny ones like asking a boy to dance. Others were done out of mere curiosity, like that weekend at the nudist colony. But each little risk grows you and gives you more confidence. They add up day-by-day, year-by-year until you have this crazy, wonderful sense of ‘been there, done that’ in your bones. It is unshakeable and freeing!

Being older is a blast, too!  It means that I can walk into Starbucks and tell the barista he’s cute. Or flat hang up on that caller who tells me, “I’m not selling you anything.” It means I can show up at a gala event sans makeup and wear white when summer is long over. At my age, there is simply no one I care to impress—except me.

Right now, I have a friend who wants to buy a van and drive across country, hitting all the sweet spots at just the right season. I told him, “Do it. No time like the present.” Better to die with your flag unfurled than live at half-mast. Live so you have something to TELL about later.  Oh, and if he takes my advice?  I’ll post some pictures because that ‘friend’ happens to be my own husband!



Ready for this?  Do you know what the 3rd major cause of death is in the US right now?  It’s listed right there after heart issues and cancer:  Alzheimer’s.  Why?  Because once that amyloid plaque gums up your neural connections your brain shuts down.  Once that happens, here comes pneumonia, falls that lead to operations, and a host of other ills that befall our elderly.  So while that death certificate may have said, “Pneumonia,” Alzheimer’s was behind it all.

So, you would think that in our infinite, scientific wisdom we would be doing everything we could to prevent that plaque buildup in the brain in the first place.  Instead, where are those billions going?  Into ‘miracle’ pills that are supposed to remove the mess once it has already begun tangling the wires in our thinking.  It’s like telling a teenager:  “Oh, you’re pregnant?  Well the abortion clinic is down on 21st street.”

 As my aunt used to say, “We have it all bass ackwards.”  As a kid, I actually thought that was a real word.  Didn’t know until the day I told my geometry teacher that the stupid theorem had it all “Bass Ackwards.”  He glared at me and said, “You watch your mouth, young lady.”  ‘Hard to do without a mirror,’ I thought to myself but didn’t dare say out loud.  Thought he was an idiot.  Then I looked it up.

 So let’s just cut to the chase:  young or old here are some things you should be doing NOW—not once you forget your own address or how to tie your shoelaces.

  1.  MOVE—no, not out of state, off your butt.

2.  THINK—not just about your next errand but make meaning in your moments.

3.  EAT WELL—you already know what that means so I won’t bore you with broccoli.

4.  GET SUNSHINE—or take Vitamin D.  Better yet, plan a trip to the Caribbean.

5.  CONNECT WITH OTHERS—no, not at the bar or hooking up at rock concerts.  Something that makes you connect in a REAL way with others:  sports, games, and regular volunteering will do the trick.

6.  BE GRATEFUL for the time you DO have.  You never know when it will be up.  Just be sure that when it is your lights aren’t already out.


going, going, gone

Much ado has been made about Alzheimer’s.  In the Netherlands there is even an entire, self-contained village where people with dementia live like ‘normal’ people.  Denmark has a community called, “Life in the 50’s” for those boomers who want to retire in nostalgia.  However, while championing the cause of the moment, we are neglecting entirely the real problem facing us right now:  our elderly.  Every 7 seconds someone in the US turns 60.  In 5 years, one-third of the population will be over 55.

 So what are we doing?  Building thousands of nursing homes instead of designing our present cities so that we can age gracefully in them.  I live in a lovely, long-established neighborhood but there is not a single sidewalk so that I can walk through it safely.  I could move to one of those retirement communities where everyone drives around in golf carts but that would get ‘old’.  Besides, I would miss seeing and learning from young people and though they don’t know it yet, they would miss me, too.

Since one-third of us will soon be in that special milieu just how ‘golden’ will those years actually be?  Our culture STILL has a fascination with all things young and Madison Avenue continues to sink millions into glitzy Cosmopolitan advertisements.  But who wants to be sold high heels when they have trouble climbing the stairs?  Who will buy the next high-tech gizmo that takes 20-20 vision and fast, nimble fingers to operate?  And while collagen may plump up your lips, it takes joy to really make them smile.  That feeling springs from a nurturing community, not a divisive one.

 We need to stop creating separate spaces that divide us and design ones that incorporate both young and old.  Imagine a park where Maya Angelou strolls with Miley Cyrus discussing poetry as Jack Nicklaus shows Justin Bieber how to swing a 9 iron. Hard to imagine?  Yes, but not so long ago that was how life in America looked.  People were connected face to face—not cyberspace.

Am I sounding political?  You bet.   If we continue devaluing the old while placing premiums on the young we will create a restless, impatient and mentor-less society.  Unemployment figures would shrink to zero if focus were put on aiding the elderly:  building one-level homes, designing smaller cities that are walkable, creating abundant parks, planting greenery and simply caregiving our real ‘antiques;’ the ones so priceless they cannot be sold at auction.




I’ve done some odd things the last few years:  put the bills in the icebox, then headed to the mailbox with a carton of milk; gone to change a light bulb, only to put the burned out bulb right back into the socket; sprayed oven cleaner on the windows right after I sprayed Windex in the oven; paid the same bill twice in the same week!   You get the picture.  But today may well have topped them all. 

The temperature had dropped into the 20’s, so I sat down on the sofa to put on a nice, warm pair of socks before I headed out to the pool.  My bikini was lying on top of my workout bag.  Methodically, I lifted my left leg thinking I was putting on my left sock, but instead, stuck my left foot into the left side of the bikini bottom.  Then just as  methodically stuck my right leg into the other side and pulled up my bikini snug over my sweat pants.  I stood there a moment wondering why my feet were still so cold…………yeah.

Forgetfulness is apparently in the cards for my future.  For now, I just laugh at myself.  If I had Alzheimer’s, of course, I would forget how to laugh altogether.  So, each day that I do something stupid—and it is most days—I always remind myself to LAUGH.  That way, hopefully, folks won’t think I have dementia and need to go into a home. 

A close friend called today to let me know that three of his buddies went into Alzheimer’s homes in the last year and all three died within months of moving into them.  “I don’t understand it,” he said, “they were all lovely places but my friends—one of them really healthy— just suddenly up and died.” 

 I understand.  It is hard enough losing one’s mind without losing all sense of one’s place in the world.  A home is a touchstone.  The longer one has lived in it, the deeper its hold on the psyche.  And no amount of granite counter tops or new wall to wall carpet can compensate.  T. S. Eliot once said, “Home is where one starts from.”  I figure it’s also where I want to end up.  Besides, I sure don’t want some stranger seeing me walk around with my bikini on over my clothes.