Well go figure. Apparently I have been doing something good for my body and brain for the last 40 years and I didn’t even know it!! I guess you could say it started in my 20’s and I just sort of kept it up.  I do it at home and always when I’m travelling. You name it. Anywhere I find the space, I  simply just do it. Like how it feels. Love how it gives me a different perspective on things.

I’ve done it in SO many hotel rooms your head would spin.  I’ve done it in public, in private, under bright lights, in pitch dark, against fences, bathroom doors in shopping malls and smack on the beach in broad daylight.  What am I talking about??  You guessed it:  handstands.

Now, science says that what I have been doing several times a day for all these years has 5 beneficial results:

  1. Builds core strength.
  2. Makes the upper body strong.
  3. Increases balance
  4. Helps with bone health, circulation & breathing

Here’s the crazy thing: anyone can do them. It just takes a little practice, a little confidence and a nice strong wall to fly up against. Place your hands about a shoulder’s width apart; aim them about 12 inches from a nice, sturdy wall…and GO FOR IT. The worst that could happen is you chicken out half way up and come back down.

One word of caution: in the thousands and thousands of handstands I have done over the years, only once did I have a disastrous result. As I recall, I was staying in a rundown Motel 6 and there was no room to do one. So, I closed the bathroom door and did a handstand against it. Well, the door didn’t latch tightly.  So as my feet landed on it, I had the lovely sensation of going all the way over and both feet landed smack in the toilet. Thank God I was only 20 at the time.

Give it a try….it just might change your mood AND perspective on things. 🙂

P. S.  Yes, this was me this afternoon at the YMCA.



plant a tree 3 old man young girl

If you have not yet read, “Why I hope to die at 75,” by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in this month’s Atlantic, don’t bother. He may be a distinguished scientist, head the Department of Medical Ethics at U Penn and be a primary architect of Obamacare, but frankly he’s not too swift.

At first I thought he was humorously flipping the numbers of his own age, 57, around. Nope. He is dead serious. Not only does he list the various reasons why 75, “is a good place to stop” including physical, mental and creative decline. He also spends a good many pages telling us exactly what he WILL have accomplished by that age: “will have loved and been loved,” will have “contributed his best work” to his field and will have “seen his children grown.” Is he a fortune-teller, too? He may or may not live long enough to see any of those things happen!

The single worst part is his wanting to be remembered, “as vibrant and engaged, not feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” Wow. Does narcissism come to mind? Look, getting wrinkled, frail and whatever else is part of the journey. If you can do it with an eye open for what magic lies beyond the bend, hooray! And if some young idiot thinks you’re ‘pathetic,’ shame on them.

It’s good for the young to be around the old. It’s even better they learn to take care of them, so they can truly understand their own aging one day. Emanuel says, “Our living too long places emotional weights on our progeny.” Yes, partially, but it also builds strength, character and teaches valuable lessons otherwise lost. He thinks the young need more time, “out of our shadows.” To do what? Indulge in their own self interests so they, too, can leave behind a ‘youthful’ legacy?

Garbage like this makes my blood boil. And to think the Atlantic actually prides itself on over 150 years of exhibiting a, “moderate world view.” Moderate? The bottom line is that despite his Harvard Ph.D., Emanuel is a sad victim of the “fixed mind set.” If you don’t know what that is, get a copy of “Mindset” by Carol Dweck right now and start reading.

Geez, the ancient Greeks were wiser than our present day intellectuals. They said: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  To that, I say “AMEN.”


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.


     When I was a kid and my grandmother said, “Straighten up and fly right!” It meant pull your shoulders back and act proud to be who you are.  When I was a teenager and she said it, I  recall coming up with this flippant remark:  “People don’t fly.  So it won’t do me any good to straighten up!”  If only I had noticed old people then, I might have paid closer attention.  But I didn’t.  They were a separate species and not on my radar at all.  

     I realize now that there are two kinds of slumpers:  teenagers, who haven’t yet grown used to their bodies and old people, who are getting tired of them.  However, I have discovered a little known secret about the older ones:  If you smile at them, they actually stand up straighter.  Here’s the problem.  Who smiles at them anymore?  

     Face it.  Getting old means getting less attention.  In fact, it’s so much less it borders on non-existent.  Old people are so used to being ignored that they are disappearing right before our eyes.  No, not like in primitive societies where they literally walked off into the wilderness when it was ‘time to go.’  In modern society, they do it in small steps.  It starts with that slump–a drawing in to their shell–perhaps so they won’t be bumped & jostled by all those young people rushing past them.  The voice gets softer, not just because it’s worn out, but because there’s no real reason to raise it anymore.  Who is listening?  

     This morning,  I noticed an older woman shuffling towards the supermarket a few feet ahead of me.  She had the slump and the slowed gait as she tentatively moved towards the large, heavy, glass door.  I realized that she was trying to estimate how much time she had to pull that door open before a young man coming towards her from the other side got there first.  She hesitated.  Smart woman.  He blammed through the door and would have flattened her if she hadn’t paused.  In fact, he didn’t even SEE her.  Quickly, I grabbed the door handle and held it for her.  For half a second she looked up, took a big breath and smiled.  “Oh, thank you dear,” she said.  As she continued on towards the shopping carts, I noticed she was actually standing taller.  I could hear Nat King Cole singing in my head:  Straighten Up And Fly Right.”  (


     As I headed towards the YMCA pool this morning, all the ‘old’ ladies were coming out of their water aerobics class.  One said, “Hey!  How did that Alzheimer’s talk go?”  At the mere mention of the “A” word, another piped up:  “Girls if you don’t wanna get Alzheimer’s, throw out ALL of your aluminum pans.”  As another removed her chlorine-chewed, flowered bathing suit, she chimed in:  AND don’t eat junk, just lots of fruits and vegetables.”  “I hate salad,” muttered someone in the distance.  “Oh, and NO hydrogenated fat.  It clogs your arteries.”  “Got that,” added another pulling on her pink velour sweatpants.  “But the BEST thing we can do is exercise.  That’s why I’m here 3 times a week.”  A locker slammed to my right.  “3 times a week?” said the semi-naked, locker slammer.  “I read you have to exercise EVERYday.”  Indeed.  But ALL of them were also ‘exercising’ what science has now proven:  increasing our social networks & contact with others will slow or even stave off the progress of the disease.  (


     It has been less than a week since my first post and so many of you are ‘out there.’  I heard from a friend my freshman year in high school.  She took her father out of a locked-care facility & brought him home:  “It was the greatest gift I could have received having my father in my life during his last years.  Sometimes it’s harder to care for a loved one than a stranger because the person you knew has changed so much.  Many feel embarrassment and shame at what is going on in their home but I always found the humor in what Dad was up to.” 

      A stranger writes:  “I feel so blessed to have my mother with me.  She may be forgetful and can’t do many of the things she once did but she IS enjoying life in the comforts of familiar surroundings.”     

     From a fellow songwriter on Facebook:  “My father had early onset Alzheimer’s when I was a teenager.  No one knew what it was then.  The first thing to leave him was his creativity.  I have written songs about it.” 

     One of our happiest memories caring for my grandmother was her almost daily rendition of “Happy Birthday.”  Because she had no memory, we often told her it was our birthday simply to have the joy of hearing her sing that familiar refrain to us.  (


     Spoke last week at the American Counseling Association’s national convention in Pittsburgh.  My topic was, “There’s No Place Like Home:  Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient At Home.”  Having cared for my grandmother for 13 years in our home, this is an issue both personal and philosophical. 

     In 20 years, the US is predicted to have 11 million people diagnosed w/ the disease.  Add that number to the families & caretakers that will be involved & you have some idea what lies ahead of us.  If we don’t figure out how to care for our elders in their final years with both dignity & compassion, as other cultures have done for centuries, America will be sadder for it.  So will we.  We are all going to die.  If we are fortunate, we will all live to old age. 

     Our LAST chapter should be just as important as our FIRST one.  Indeed, by then one hopes we will have added something real and of value to the world at large.  Our babies, while precious and sacrosanct, have yet to offer us anything.  That will come with time.  Our elders have given us EVERYTHING and yet we abandon them in their last chapter.  It is their loss.  If they have Alzheimer’s, they will likely not even know it.  But we know it and ultimately it is OUR loss.  (http://  Read the first chapter of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” my memoir of those 13 years with Granny).