A WORD TO THE WISE IS NOT SUFFICIENT

lunch

The FDA, “responsible for public health,” approved pesticides on crops in the 40’s,  birth control pills with life-changing, side effects in the 60’s, and Celebrex in the 90’s, which is now in the middle of a class action suit, and had Frances Kelsey not intervened, Thalidomide would have been approved for pregnant mothers in the 50’s as it was widely used in Europe.  A recent Harvard study says that even our everyday drugs, like Benadryl, sleeping pills and antihistamines contain diphenhydramine, which has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.

 What was once touted as ‘healthy’ even 10 years ago, is no longer, ‘safe for human consumption.’ Whether it’s mercury in our fish and vaccines, chemical sprays on our fruits and vegetables or the cancer-causing ingredients like BHA, Parabens and Retinyl Palimitate in most of our skin products, we are contaminated–and not just by misinformation. However, the real guilt here lies not just with the FDA.  It really belongs to those scientists and researchers on the payrolls of big food and drug companies; the ones that cleverly present only portions of their findings and err on the side of those who grease their palm.

 The FDA has always approved, so many rat feces, hairs, fly eggs and maggots per pound of grain. Even frozen blueberries, “can contain up to 60% mold and include up to 10 insect parts and larvae, per 500 grams.” Ground spices like cinnamon have been found to contain the deadly Hantavirus, found in mouse excrement.  It gets worse.

 You know those metal, amalgam fillings in your mouth? The ones that your dentist told you were, ‘perfectly safe,’ 40 years ago? Well, they’re not. Over time, they corrode and all that mercury finds its’ way into your bloodstream and wreaks havoc. Many believe that it is responsible for everything from gut to mental disorders. My husband had his removed and wanted me to follow suit. Well, I’m still debating. Why? Because how do I know that 10 years from now ‘science’ won’t discover that his replacement fillings are even more deadly?

 In 5th grade, my class visited a ketchup factory. While my classmates admired the bottling process, I wandered out to where the trucks were unloaded. Thousands of pounds of tomatoes sat open in those trucks and they were quite a sight, only I wondered why they looked so green. That’s when I noticed that they seemed to be moving! They were covered by thousands of green worms!

“Oh, honey,” the foreman laughed, “Don’t worry!  Those are just cutworms. We boil them until they’re completely dead!”

 Anyway, it’s time for lunch. Here’s a picture and the recipe for mine:

big fistful of raw chopped spinach–fistful of my homegrown sunflower sprouts–1/2 cup cottage cheese–large, vine ripened tomato–artichoke hearts–hearts of palm–black jumbo olives–handful of raw pecans–1/2 sliced avocado–big drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the delightful juice of one, entire lemon–with a dash of pink, Himalayan salt if I’m feeling terribly decadent.

 

 

 

    

UP TUMAMOC!!!

Up Tumamoc

Too many of us, old and young, are loathe to get out of our comfort zones. It’s nice feeling cozy in your routine, always knowing what the day will bring. Thing is you can’t grow by sitting still, anymore than a muscle gains strength without use. Any challenge, no matter how small, builds us and makes us bolder.

 Which explains the hike I took yesterday with my 24 year-old up Tumamoc Hill. It was billed as, ‘an easy, hike,’ until you read the fine print: It was a 750-foot ascent to the top and a three-mile round-trip! Now, I haven’t hiked in. . . Well I can’t actually remember when, but I did learn a thing or two along the way:

  1. Don’t over-analyze the route before you start or you may never take it.
  2. Swing your arms when you walk whether or not it makes you look foolish. It helps.
  3. The real climb is in your head. Your legs are just there for support.
  4. Don’t worry if someone passes you. Don’t even notice or you’ll alter your own momentum. Besides, you may pass them later on.
  5. Don’t be afraid to pause and admire the view. It will help you catch your breath if nothing else.
  6. Encourage your fellow travellers. You are in this together.
  7. Don’t be shy asking for help. Most people love to offer it and it makes them feel important.  (My daughter’s left shoulder was a great support to me most of the way back down as I have no knees.) 
  8. When you’ve gone as far as you can, turn around and look how far you’ve come.  It will encourage you to go further.
  9. Be present in each step and reaching the end won’t feel so overwhelming.
  10. And finally:

 The view from the top is exactly the same as it was from the bottom, only now you can see it!!!

 

BROKEN BUT BLOOMING

broken but blooming

 I’m a pretty adept gardener but removing mistletoe from Palo Verde trees and pruning huge, spiny branches is not my forte. So, last week I hired a gardening crew for a few hours. When they arrived, I cautioned them to, ‘be careful’ of some of my new plantings. Now granted, most people do not scatter sunflower seeds among rocks but I do. It gives me immense pleasure to fill barrenness with beauty.

 It wasn’t until the following morning that I noticed one of the men had stepped on several of my sunflower shoots and broken the stems. They probably did look like weeds. I was tempted to pull them out and start over but stopped when I noticed that each one had a round, green bud that someday would yield a yellow flower. So I left them, broken and lying flat on the rocks. Perhaps the birds might peck out a bite or two I surmised.

 This morning, I was alone in the pool, which is both blessing and curse. Blessing, because I don’t have to fight for a lane and curse because I am alone with my thoughts. Today, I was a bit blue because there is so much less time ahead of me than behind me. I pictured the older people who are often here, many of who can no longer swim at all and merely tread water. I wondered if that would ever be me.

 Then I thought of the gal who arrives daily on crutches, sits down, removes her prosthetic leg, slips into the water and swims a vigorous mile.  My brief depression ended abruptly. I returned home to find this beautiful flower, which actually bloomed more than a week after it had been trampled!!  ‘Such spunk,’ I thought to myself– just like the girl with no leg and just like the kind I intend to cultivate in myself.  As Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

 

  

DRINK UP!!

coffee

 Just imagine how delighted I was to read this week that drinking coffee actually lowers your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes by 65%. Not only that, it seems that drinking up to four cups of the lovely stuff a day might well be the charm. This information came from several studies over a long period of time and you can Google them for yourself.

 But that’s not all. Not only is coffee rich in B vitamins and minerals but it is also loaded with antioxidants. Caffeine, it turns out, not only increases your metabolism but also enhances brain function by blocking adenosine. In addition, coffee drinkers have an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and a 40% lower risk of developing liver cancer. Even better? Coffee drinkers have lower rates of depression and suicide. No wonder I’m so happy!

 But lest you get too giddy reading the above, I also want to counter these findings with another article that I read in The New Yorker this week. It was entitled, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Opinions.” Apparently, we humans are subject to something called, “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to embrace information that supports our beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

 Incredulously, our bodies actually release dopamine when we read or hear information that supports our beliefs. Uh oh. Maybe I’m doped up right now?? “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.” Another ‘uh-oh.’

 I guess it all goes to say that you should take these lovely findings on coffee with a grain of salt. (Whatever you do, don’t put those grains in your coffee). As for me, I am blissfully looking forward to my double espresso with non-fat milk tomorrow morning. I will sprinkle it with cinnamon and nutmeg, both of which are known to boost the immune system, strengthen cognitive function and lower heart disease risk. Oh, and did I mention that they also are anti-inflammatory agents? So, drink up my friends. Drink up!  

ANONYMOUS VALENTINE

heart-leaf

 This lovely leaf appeared on my doorstep last Valentine’s Day. No tree in our yard had leaves like that, so I pondered its’ arrival. Did the wind blow it smack to the center of the doorstep? Had someone put it there? I picked it up and put it in the kitchen window and all day admired my anonymous valentine.

 Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. My love affair with Cupid began in 1st grade. I had abruptly been skipped from kindergarten the week before Valentine’s Day. I was the smallest, newest addition to the class and didn’t know anyone. The teacher had us make big, red, colored paper hearts with our names on them. Then she stapled them to the bulletin board with the tops left open. We were to slip our Valentines into each other’s open heart.

 My mom bought me a stack of valentines with sweet tarts already attached. Excitedly, I began writing the names of all my new classmates on each one. The next day, I arrived early to slip them into their red hearts. Some were too high for my reach, so the teacher gave me a little step stool to stand on. All week, I watched my classmates stuff their treasures into each other’s Valentines, too. A few of them even bulged at the seams.  I was so excited that it was hard to sit still in my seat.

 The big day came. The teacher pulled all our valentines off of the board and placed them on our desks. The kids around me were pulling out lollipops, bubble gum, and chocolates. I opened mine and reached inside. There was only one valentine and it was from the teacher. She had also put in a Hershey’s kiss, which was my very, best-loved candy!

 While the memory is bittersweet, it reminds me that it only takes one act of kindness to make someone’s day. I was thrilled to get a special valentine from my teacher with my favorite candy. In fact, all day I wondered how she knew. At the time, it never occurred to me that she gave ALL the kids a Hershey’s kiss! Sometimes I think it’s better not to know how something happens and simply appreciate it when it does, like finding a heart-shaped leaf on your doorstep.  

 

DYING TRYING

helen-on-a-bike

There is a reason I am on this bike for the first time after almost 15 years. Research says that if I really want to be a, ‘super ager,’ I NEED to feel pain. I need to get out of my, ‘comfort zone’ and really tax my mind & body. Otherwise, my brain tissue will merely be ‘thin’ and that is NOT good. Thank you science and the rest of you folks who are forever changing your mind about we should and shouldn’t do.

A recent article in the New York Times says that, “In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Dr. Anna Lembke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford has just thrown her hat in the ring, as well. She says that 100 years ago, doctors believed that some pain had a, ‘salutatory effect on the body, providing both a physiologic and spiritual benefit.’ However, in the time since, pain has become, “something to avoid at all costs.” Thus, the over-prescription of painkillers and the ensuing opioid epidemic.

Quite frankly, I thought I was doing OK by swimming a half-mile a day, playing a few games of competitive tennis, practicing my scales on piano and guitar and writing. Apparently not. Apparently, I am supposed to PUSH myself…not merely MOVE myself. Well, thank you very much, science.

Kudos also to my sister-in-law, Cathy, who keeps me posted on all things Alzheimer’s and aging! So, dear girl, this blog is for you. Thank you for personally whipping me into shape whether I like it or not. Right now, my knees are aching, I am winded from the hills and quite frankly, if this will help me be a ‘super-ager,’ I shall be indebted to you. If not, at least I died trying!!

A TEMPORARY FIX

img_0618

 I was shocked today to learn that a friend of mine, fully 15 years my junior, recently had Botox. Granted, she does look a bit more relaxed and slightly more youthful about the face. But bottom line? It won’t last. It’s like wearing a pushup bra. You look pretty hot, until you take it off that is. Time marches on and despite our temporary fixes, we will indeed, age, infirm and die.

 Consider this: I have worked out almost every day of my life for the last 40 some years. Yes, it has paid off in terms of ‘staying fit,’ but really? My workouts have become shorter and less aggressive over the years. My rotator cuff is hanging by a thread and my knees are shot. So, though I swim a half-mile a day, and do yoga and play a bit of tennis, the decline is continuous and certain. I’ll be honest. I am watching myself go downhill piece by piece, although I am trying to stay upbeat about it all.

 Then you add the actual statistics. Right now, 1,000 people a day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 1% of us will have it by age 60. By the time we reach 85, fully 40% of us will have it. Not only that, the disease itself will begin a full 10 years before we even notice the symptoms! There is NO cure. There is NOTHING that will slow it down and even science says that at this point, “nothing can be done to stave it off.”

 Oh sure, you can exercise, eat well and get Botox. But frankly? That’s like getting a polio vaccine after you already have polio. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of those,‘super agers,’ and the disease won’t even darken your door. If you’re an average Joe, though, you’d better get your affairs in order: make a Living Will, find someone you trust and make them your power of attorney, and if you want to spend your final years at home, keep your eyes open for a good caretaker!! I am ALWAYS looking—even at the supermarket!

 My advice? Close your computer right now. Turn off your cell phone and walk outside. Look up at the sky. Notice how cumulonimbus clouds merge into cirrus and keep on moving. Whether you see stars or mountains, sea or cactus, love the view. Realize that whatever you see before you right now, you will someday not see at all.  Be grateful for the moment, this moment. Now.