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.  






 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.


skype helen

Striding into my sixth decade, I have finally accepted the fact that I am no longer 21. Looking in the mirror has not convinced me because I still see my younger self in that reflection. I can do the math: my own daughter just turned 21. That wasn’t the clincher either. Even my husband insists that, “the obvious eludes (me).” So why, have I only come to this realization now? Well, if other people and Mother Nature weren’t constantly reminding me, I might still be oblivious. This week alone, these things happened:

1. the bag boy asked if I “needed help” carrying out the tiny sack that held only grapes and yogurt.
2. Looked at a photo of a trip I took last summer and recognized everyone in it except for ‘that woman with the gray hair.’ Then I put on my glasses.
3. In Pilates, the girl next to me admired my splits and asked for help after class. As we stood facing the mirror, I noticed that I might easily pass for her grandmother.
4. Realized that Menopause is already a distant memory.
5. Beamed to see that my muscles are strong from daily workouts, but frustrated that my skin flat-out refuses to hold on tight! It sags sleepily from my thighs and swings like small hammocks when I wave my arms.
6. Laughed REALLY hard when some dope said that “60 is the new 40.”
7. Realized that my husband and I don’t try to get our kids out of the house so we can have ‘alone’ time anymore. Instead, we strategize how we can see them more.
8. Calculated how many years the dog and I have left together. Wondered also, if she goes first, will I outlive another one?
9. Noticed that my AARP card is wrinkled.
10. Figured out that the “Lifetime Membership,” our gym offers is actually a lousy deal.

However, just as I accept the fact that I’m not a kid anymore, I feel like one again. I’m in Starbucks with my daughter when suddenly, the cute, long-haired barista who often serves me, turns to her and says: “Hey. I hope it’s cool with you that I’m dating your mom.” She goes wide-eyed. I look at him in utter disbelief. He, however, keeps such a straight face that for one brief moment. . .the obvious eludes me!




Pushing my grocery cart towards the automatic doors, I can’t help but notice the older man just ahead of me.  He is tall and spry, and the bright, yellow sweater he wears sets off his sharp, new haircut.  I observe these details because when the automatic doors open, he doesn’t budge.    

“Waiting for the light to change, huh?” I laugh, making light of his hesitation.      

“Nope.  Just waiting for my wife,” he sighs.  “Apparently, I’m not allowed to drive anymore.”  The heavy loss of independence sits deep in his eyes.   

“It was just a little fender bender,” he explains.  “The guy ahead of me just stopped too fast.” 

His son took away his car keys.  Now he has to be driven everywhere like a school boy.  He’s mad but mostly he’s sad.  I would be, too.  No more jumping in the car on a moment’s whim and letting the world swirl past your windows.  From here on out he will just be a passenger.  I imagine him raising that son; the one who took his first steps as Dad looked on with pride.  Now that boy will watch him take these last ones.

Having seen my share of retirees motor through 4-way stop signs or suddenly stop for seemingly no reason, I get it.  Many shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.  Right now, there are one million licensed drivers over the age of 80!  And while one could say the same for teen drivers, statistics don’t lie:  drivers over 85 have four times the fatality rate of teenage motorists. 

At 17, I drove almost the entire California coastline in an old, Chevy Nova.  Still remember the hairpin turns approaching Big Sur, the scary, high cliffs where mammoth waves crashed on the rocks below.  It was a thrilling and heady ride and I was the master of my fate.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  No wonder.  That’s where all those wild and free memories first ignited in us; the ones we thought would last and last with just a turn of the key.  I would like to believe that someday I will be in that one percent still cruising in their 90‘s with the top down.  Praying, of course, that I never hear: ‘Get off the road Grandma!’





Life is messy.  I don’t care how many times you clean the kitchen or how well.  It just gets messy.  Maybe it’s bread crumbs or a smear of jelly.  Maybe it’s grease and pasta splattered across the stove.  Maybe you made a smoothie and forgot to put the top on tight.  But face it:  mess happens.  It happens in our kitchens and it happens in our lives. 

 It’s how we deal with them that matters.  I shared an apartment once with a gal whose idea of cleaning was to sweep stuff into a corner of the room and leave it.  Never mind that opening a door blew it all back again.  She felt she had done her part.  Funny thing is some people don’t even SEE the mess.  Others run around plucking imaginary hairs from the sofa cushions.  The rest of us are somewhere in between.

 When I was a teenager, my grandma used to say that she could always tell when I was getting sick by the way my room looked.  “If your clothes start piling up on the chair, I know you’re coming down with something.”  At the time I really thought she had a screw loose but boy was I wrong.  Even today, I can tell when I’m coming down with something simply by looking at the kitchen:  If the dog food isn’t quite rolled shut or the dishes start piling up or the counters aren’t wiped down after dinner—I’m likely coming down with something.  Guess you could say you know how I’m doing with one, quick glance at my kitchen.

 Lately, I’ve decided to put a new ‘twist’ to this.  Figuring there’s no time like the present, I am making myself ‘go forward’ instead of just ‘staying even.’  That means today I am going to pay ALL the bills and file ALL that paperwork.  I figure that way, tomorrow I’ll be even healthier!!  Oh, and in case you get the bug, too, remember:  if your oven has baked on grease, don’t reach for the Windex!

P. S.  I am posting this blog as a not so gentle reminder, just in case I decide to deviate from the above intentions.  



No, he’s not my husband.  Five minutes before this photo was shot, I had never laid eyes on the man.  But let me explain.  It all began in 1968, as I was leaving for my first high school dance.  As I headed for the door, Granny called out:  “Now remember, Dear, dance with EVERY boy who asks you.”  Her feeling was that to ever say, “No, thank you,” would be crushing to a fellow who had worked his courage up to ask in the first place.  So, I did and in the years since, not only have I never ‘sat one out,’ I have even taken to doing the asking myself. 

 Such was the case last week as I shopped for produce at Whole Foods.  Somewhere between the flowers and the blueberries, music began to play; lovely, danceable music.  As I turned towards the musicians, I noticed an older gentleman standing off to the side keeping time with his foot.  I walked up and asked him to dance.  He said, “No, thank you.  I’m just here to listen to the band.” 

 Frankly, he took a bit of coaxing but within minutes we were moving to a song whose name I can’t remember.  By then, I had dropped my coat and shopping bag to the floor.  His shy smile began to beam as others stopped to watch us.  Emboldened, we began to widen our circle and grasped hands.  Neither of us had a clue as to what we were doing, nor did we follow any kind of actual step like the waltz or foxtrot.  We just danced, this complete stranger and I.  From the corner of my eye, shoppers stopped to smile, a grinning cashier paused at his register, and a little girl pointed us out to her mother in wonder. 

 Why does she ‘wonder’?  I ask myself.  Our brief lives should be filled with moments like these; times we simply drop what we are doing and move to the music.  Moments don’t just happen.  We make them come alive by risking and yes, dancing.  These moments become our memories.  If we don’t make them joyful, we are doomed to a bitter old age.  Besides, the music doesn’t play forever.  So, to Granny, ‘Thank you for that advice.’  And to Vernon, ‘Thank you for the dance!’

 Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the 13 years her ‘advice-giving’ Granny descended into Alzheimer’s.




Age Beholds BeautySeveral times in recent weeks, perfect strangers, when seeing me with my youngest daughter have said, “Gosh.  You look just alike!”  or, “Well I can sure tell that she’s your daughter!”  Funny thing is, until I saw this picture tonight, I almost believed them!  But a picture IS worth a thousand words. . . and as you can see for yourself:  we look NOTHING alike and that’s Okay.  She is lovely for 16 and I am lovely for one who parks in the, “For Seniors Only,” space.

Oh, I could nip and tuck this or that, slap on some makeup, color my hair; all things my girlfriends have sweetly suggested over the years.  But what person in their right mind would put fresh paint on a crumbling wall?  Just today, a woman 10 years younger than me said that she botoxes “like crazy,” and that, “along with Zoloft,” keeps her from being depressed.  But I’m not one whit depressed when I look in the mirror.  Not just because my eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be.  Frankly, I don’t really ‘look’ in that mirror the way I used to.  Instead of scrutinizing the shape of my eyebrows or how lush my lips look with that new lipstick, I now use it as a general assessment of, ‘Is there spinach in my teeth?” or, “I think it’s about time I trimmed my bangs.’

Youth hands you beauty without having to bat an eyelash.  Problem is, too many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to improve on it.  The money-mad, media, once found only in print or TV ads, now gnaws for our young girl’s attention from the intimacy of their cell phones!  Sadly, they pay attention.  But no cream, beauty product or laser treatment will ever make you any more beautiful over time.  That happens on the inside, where the real fountain of youth exists.  It’s that reservoir of love, memory,  acceptance, forgiveness, humility and humor which has poured into you slowly over the years.  

So a reminder to young, beautiful girls everywhere:  spend as much time doing good as looking good.  It’s cheaper than mascara and lasts forever  Meanwhile, I’ve decided to go out, “Just the way the Good Lord made me.”  Those were words my grandmother managed to use for almost every occasion.  Now there was a truly, beautiful woman.  Sorry, Lady Clairol.  You just can’t hold a candle to that! 

Hudson’s 2nd book, “Kissing Tomatoes,” will soon be out in print.  The Kindle edition is available on Amazon.