Mind Over Body OR Body Over Mind?

Mind over bodyFor many years I have found the subject of the mind/body connection fascinating. One of the original books on the topic that hooked me goes back to 1987. Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Dr. Joan Borysenko is still applicable all these years later. In fact, I include the book as suggested reading to my public speaking students.

So I was thrilled to find in a new book I’m currently reading (Successful Aging by Dr. Daniel Levitin) that the author has a strong focus on the mind/body connection as it relates to aging well. Dr. Levitin (62) is a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist. I appreciate that instead of relying simply on his own work and own opinions for the book, he reviewed around four thousand peer-reviewed scientific papers.

One phrase that popped out at me in the section on exercise is embodied cognition. Basically our brains thrive on our body’s physical movement. Our memory, problem-solving skills, planning abilities, creativity, and thinking are enhanced by physical activity.

Note that “physical activity” doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a gym rat or taking up running. (Unless those activities bring you joy. Or unless you’re Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins who took up competitive athletics at age 75 and then at age 100 moved on to running. At 101 she won the hundred-yard dash in the National Senior Games.)

Physical activity can be as simple as moving around, interacting with the environment.

Dr. Levitin says the true meaning of embodied cognition came as an epiphany to him when he went for a walk in the Quebec countryside with two 70-ish friends. The path was a dirt trail through the woods. They meandered over tree roots, rocks, and fallen branches. They had to negotiate around young children running along the path as well as duck those pesky low-hanging branches.

It struck him that he had to carefully watch where he walked, making sure that foot placement was just so. Compared to walking on a treadmill or strolling on a nicely paved sidewalk (both beneficial movement), walking outdoors, he believes, is the best physical activity to keep the brain active and flexible.

It turns out I had intuitively already made this part of my routine. While walking my dog Grace along a creek at a local park, we negotiate our way among humongous tree roots. Then we go off the path to mount the small hillside so Grace can sniff out the fence line adjacent to a cow pasture. We make our way through an uneven terrain of pine needles, pinecones, dead leaves, twigs, fallen tree limbs, and rocks on the park’s opposite side. For once I am ahead of the curve for health recommendations!

I think everyone over 60 and their adult children will benefit from reading Successful Aging. While the book (at 400 pages not counting the 74 pages of NOTES) can at times read a bit too much like a textbook, it’s thoughtfully written. It’s not a list of DO THIS / DON’T DO THIS bullet points, nor does Levitin try to shock readers with DO THIS OR ELSE! predictions.

Instead, the pages are filled with interesting science-based material and gentle nudges for readers to incorporate the key concepts into their daily lives in order to live a longer, healthier, and enriched life.

The book also provides the information our adult children need to understand this new stage of life we parents are living through, such as why we grow accustomed to things the way they are. For instance, the challenge of a new cell phone doesn’t arise because someone has turned 72 and suddenly grown stupid. It’s because of changes in the brain that make learning something new more difficult as well as make our fingers less dexterous.

This is a book that will bring a better understanding among our family members, and so it is well worth the 400-page read.

~~~~~

Interview clip of Dr. Levitin

A Life’s True Calling

life's true calling

My friend Kimberlee Baer says her response is sometimes a conversation starter. At other times it can bring a conversation to a screeching halt.

The question: “What do you do for a living?” Her response: “I’m a licensed funeral director.”

Presently most funeral directors are male. The percentages vary depending on a) whether you’re looking at just the United States or the world, and b) whether the site combines funeral directors with morticians and/or undertakers.

The National Funeral Directors Association, whose members are from the US and 49 other countries, states that 16% of its membership is female. But in an article from NextAvenue.org titled “Why Your Funeral Director Will Likely Be Female,” the author tells us a strong shift is occurring. In the last few years, more women than men have enrolled in America’s 59 accredited mortuary science programs. And in 2016, 61 percent were female.

Kimberlee’s mom (a registered nurse) had encouraged her daughter to find her life’s calling in the medical field. As a science buff while in high school, Kimberlee thought that embalming was a fascinating topic. On senior career day, she chose to shadow a funeral director.

Earning a B.S. in biology, she spent two years in mortuary school and did a two-year residency in Chester, Virginia. Shortly after that, she responded to a funeral home’s ad of looking for an apprentice. She took that position and has been with the independent family-owned funeral home ever since.

Kimberlee has seen many changes over the years, and if we ourselves think about it, we can realize how end of life services have evolved. They used to be somber events, no photos or videos, with just sad music.

Now “celebration of life” services often replace a funeral. There are photos and videos showing the person when he or she was enjoying life. Playlists enable us to hear the person’s favorite music. Often people will include warm or funny stories in their eulogies. People attending the reception share favorite moments of the deceased and laugh as they remember the best times, the most poignant times, of the person’s life.

When I asked Kimberlee to share the most unusual service she had directed, she didn’t pause. This particular man had loved being on his sailboat. His life had basically revolved around sailing so he had left specific instructions for his celebration of life service. Palm trees with tiny lights and antique rum bottles decorated the room. A band played Jimmy Buffet music. Guests were requested to wear shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. Apparently, it was quite the send-off and everyone agreed that the deceased would have thoroughly enjoyed it.

As for the most difficult moments she faces in her role, she named three. The first instance she referred to is a sudden tragic death such as from an accident; the person was here one moment and the next they were dead. Family and friends are in shock and are sometimes barely able to focus.

A second has to do with her location in a small town; often the deceased is someone she knows and/or she knows their family. The personal connection makes it much harder.

And then, coming as no surprise, is the death of a child. Regardless of how old that child is, comforting a bereaved parent is the most difficult aspect of her work. Kimberlee shared the story of a baby who had died of SIDS. The mom had come in to plan the service and the two of them were still standing when the mom just collapsed into her arms. Kimberlee lowered them both to the floor where they stayed while the mom cried and they talked. Together they got through the planning of the service.

Kimberlee feels it is her life’s purpose to be with those who are facing the finality of death. She is able to remain calm, yet loving and compassionate, with those who need her. While seeing so many different sides of grief (anger, denial, heartbreak), Kimberlee has the ability to gently guide people through their most difficult time.

The two of us are new friends who were brought together on a Facebook community page. But that’s a story I’ll tell another time. For now, I’ll simply say that the world is a better place because of her.

~~~~~~~~~~

Next Avenue article

My Snobbiest Post Ever

Four Hundred

I accidentally realized today that this is my 400th post. This is meaningful to me…that I’ve stuck with writing for my tribe even on those days when I didn’t feel like writing. Thank you to all my readers who subscribe or who like my LiftedUp.us page on Facebook.

Just for fun, I Googled “four hundred” to see if anything interesting would come up and it did. Dictionary.com identifies the phrase “four hundred” as the exclusive social set of a city or area, and further states that words relating to “four hundred” are aristocracy, elite, society, gentry, cream, privileged, gentility, and nobility.

Maybe many of you already knew this, but I did not. It seems that the “four hundred” phrase came about back in the late 1800s. Some believe the phrase was launched because 400 was the capacity of the ballroom in Caroline Schermerhorn Astor’s mansion. Another popular belief is that Caroline Astor’s large party in 1892 featured nearly 400 guests made up of New York’s high society names.

So it makes sense that in 2007 a New York company used the name Four Hundred to create (in their very own words) “an invitation-only lifestyle management firm that opens doors of exclusivity for our clients.”

Now if you’re like me, when you read that description you felt as though you’ve just been disdainfully found wanting. I was nervous about looking at their online site, figuring that my screen would black out and in stern white font would appear the message YOU ARE NOT FINANCIALLY, SOCIALLY, OR EDUCATIONALLY WORTHY TO VIEW OUR SITE. GO AWAY.

And then I checked out their Facebook page. Their CEO and founder Tony Abrams had posted this. I am not making this up; I copied and pasted his exact words, leaving his coarse language, incorrect spelling and punctuation intact.

Four Hundred is seeking talented and passionate indiv…BLAH…BLAH…BLAH! We are looking for people who GET SHIT DONE and MAKE SHIT HAPPEN! Do YOU?! If so, please send resume’ and cover letter to info@nullfourhundred.com. PS- If you ask me for “more information”, please don’t bother applying but rather share this post with someone who just get’s it!”

I am so very tempted to send him a resume that consists of two columns: Shit I got done / Shit I made happen. You know…just to see what happens. Because he sounds like such a nice guy to have as a boss.

So my four hundred is nothing like their four hundred. Everyone is welcome on this site (except spammers, of course). You don’t have to think like me or act like me or believe like me. All I ask is that you enjoy two activities: reading and coming along for a ride of ideas.

~~~~~

Article on the Astor party of 1892

My site

 

Who Knows What’s Next?

what's next

My mother-in-law Rosalie often quipped an adage up to the week before she died at the age of 100: “Old age isn’t for sissies.”

QuoteInvestigator.com says that the phrase first appeared in the Reader’s Digest April 1968 magazine, having been submitted to their “Life in the United States” section by a Ruth Hain from California. Ruth’s story was that her group of elderly friends had been sitting around complaining of various aches and pains and the maladies associated with aging. Until finally one friend said, “Well, it just proves one thing; old age sure ain’t for sissies.”

As we age we hear more about decline, both physical and mental. Maybe we clicked on one social media article about aging and the algorithms kicked in, gleefully filling our news feeds and inboxes with notices about the hazards of getting on in years.

Many of them scare us because we don’t want to be THAT person who ends up with Alzheimer’s, or THAT person confined to a bed or a wheelchair, or THAT person who has been forgotten and is living in isolation.

The older we get, the more frightening the concept of not being the same version of ourselves becomes.

Next month I will cross the calendar date when I will officially be closer to 70 than 69.

May I just say that feels impossible?

For the past ten years I haven’t minded sharing that I’m in my 60s. I had a blast at my 50th high school reunion in 2018, reminiscing with all the other 68-year-olds. Keeping active in all the ways that it counts (spiritually, mentally, physically, socially), I haven’t felt my age. I don’t feel old.

So I’m not certain why the idea of becoming 70 in the fall feels like a dramatic turning point.

The “aging” site that most frequently pops up in my email feed is called NextAvenue.org. Their tagline is “where grown-ups keep growing,” and their menu tabs are: Health / Money and Policy / Work and Purpose / Living / Caregiving / Technology.

Unlike many of the “you’re-getting-old-and-you-need-to-be-afraid-of-what’s-coming-next” sites, articles, and stories, Next Avenue offers encouragement, insight, inspirational stories, and advice to those in their midlife season.

I like it because it’s not one of those preachy sites that makes it seem as though there is just one right way to live your older life. And actually, it parallels my teaching and writing methods: offering up new information in a positive way for readers to consider and then ponder how they might find ways of incorporating the ideas to improve their own lives.

I’ve included a link below so you can check out their site.

So for now, this is your 69 years, four months, and 22 days old blogger signing off.

~~~~~

QuoteInvestigator.com

Next Avenue

One Hundred Words

one hundred words

What if you were limited to speak just one hundred words each day? A non-removable metal counter on your wrist tracks the number of words you utter, resetting to zero each midnight. If you dare speak word #101 within each monitored 24-hour period, you are delivered an electric shock. Word #102 earns you a stronger zap, and well, you’d better shut up before the thing gets serious.

This is the opening of VOX, a novel by Christina Dalcher. Oh, and only females are required to wear the “bracelets” which is what the marketers in the book term the shockingly restrictive counters.

The story takes place in the near future; the US President (basically a puppet run by a maniacal religious zealot) has created an “earlier times” culture in America. Women are expected to obey men; women are not permitted to work, they have no access to any reading or writing materials or electronics, and they have no money of their own.

This audiobook fell under the category of thriller which is how I found myself listening to its first five minutes as a sample. Otherwise, I would never have found it as this type of story isn’t something I’d normally listen to for entertainment. It did, however, qualify as a thriller.

VOX (all caps) is a telecommunications term for “voice operated switch.” In Latin, vox popoli translates as “the voice of the people.” In music journalism, it means vocals or simply voice.

I ended up enjoying the audiobook in part because the main character, Dr. Jean McClellan, works (or worked) in the field of neurolinguistics as a cognitive linguist in the DC area. Her specialty had been working for a cure for stroke-induced aphasia. I’ve always found the topic of neurolinguistics (and words themselves) fascinating.

The author Dalcher herself earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University, so the book had the feel of “she knows her stuff.” And also, narrator Julia Whelan gives a true voice to each of the characters.

But the story also poked at me to consider this question: If I had just one hundred words allotted to speak each day, how would I choose to use them?

Well, I assume I’d stop talking to the dog. And surely I’d have to relinquish talking to myself. And say goodbye to singing in the shower since the first three lines of I Could Have Danced All Night take up eighteen words. There goes (thankfully) complaining about trivial circumstances.

Perhaps I would begin to hoard my words, being frugal earlier in the day in order to say them all at once in some (albeit short) conversation.

The average number of words Americans speak in a day depends on which study you agree with. Linked In refers to a 2003 study that says the average person uses around 7000 words each day. A University of Arizona professor’s study found that both men and women speak around 16,000 words each day. While that’s a huge differential, either one is still a long way from one hundred.

So now YOU can ponder what you would say in a day’s time if you were limited to just one hundred words. I know this much is true; I would save three words each day to say I love you.

~~~

An overview of the novel by the publisher with an opportunity to listen to the first five minutes of the audiobook

University of Arizona study on word usage

An interesting behind-the-scenes peek at Lauren Ambrose and orchestra at Lincoln Center theater recording I Could Have Danced All Night

 

The Missing Link(s)

missing links

Those of you who receive my posts by email may have thought I disappeared after the November 8 post about beagle time. Nope. Due to some glitch between WordPress (which maintains my website) and Jetpack (which works in conjunction with WordPress to customize my site), the process where the system automatically sends my posts simply stopped.

After discovering the problem and discussing it with my website designer, it turns out there isn’t an easy fix to send out the missing posts to you. Can you believe it? There is no Staples-like “easy” button that says RESEND THIS POST TO YOUR READERS.

I’m trying an old-fashioned fix and I hope it works.

Below are links to the three November posts that weren’t emailed to you. By clicking on them individually, they’ll take you to the posts. Since you’ll be busy reading, I’m not going to send this week’s post until tomorrow.

I apologize for not recognizing the issue immediately. And as always, thank you for being a faithful reader. Look for my post With Open Arms tomorrow afternoon.

Experience with a capital E, post from November 15, 2019

Mentoring is not a new idea, post from November 22, 2019

The color of Christmas, post from November 29, 2019

 

Mentoring Is Not A New Idea

Mentoring

In my mid-20s I began working as a secretary for an office furniture and supply company. When I was transitioning into my first middle management position, I had an amazing mentor named Ann.

This was in the late 70s and the business world was still very much male-dominated. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, in 1980 only 25% of managers in the US workplace were female. So for Ann to hold the Vice President of Operations title was anything but commonplace.

The advice she provided to my younger self likely seems ridiculous viewed through the lens of today’s world. But since I still vividly remember it today means it had quite an impact on me.

Since the company sold both office furniture and supplies, we had a warehouse. Its workers were union employees. Around 10:00 am each workday, the alarm bell rang signaling break time for the warehouse. Some of the office employees had gotten into the habit of taking our coffee break along with the warehouse workers; I was one of them. Ann suggested that as the newly promoted office manager I should stop reacting to a break bell. She encouraged me to start developing more of an executive presence.

Ann also pointed out that more conservative clothing choices would be appropriate if I wanted to be taken seriously and advance in the company. While I never wore anything that would be considered inappropriate, my wardrobe had consisted of very feminine clothing.

The best advice she gave me was in handling men with their own agendas. I know with the Me Too movement’s push for bringing sexual harassment and assault into the light where it belongs that most people are aware that things used to be very different in the workplace. But unless you lived through those times, I think it might be difficult to believe or understand.

There was this one guy who was also a manager at the company. In the language of the day, we women referred to him as a male chauvinist pig. To my knowledge, he never actually took any physical action against women, but he was the master of manipulating language to create double entendres as well as pretending innocence while lecherously staring at women.

At one management meeting, he kept turning the conversation to a well-endowed young woman I had just hired as the receptionist. No matter how I tried to steer the conversation back on track, he persisted with comments and jokes.

My inexperienced self (rattled, mad, and unsure of how to take back control) took the only action I could think of. I ineffectively stormed out of the conference room, got in my car, and drove away. Where was I going exactly?

When I slunk back in the front door an hour later, I found my way to Ann’s office and slumped into a chair. Her only admonishment was this: “When you allow him to get to you, he wins.”

So yes, things are different now (thank goodness), and yet younger people can still more easily navigate through this world with a mentor. I see this happening in the county where I live with leadership programs and a course called Be the Change for women who want to start a business or build an existing one.

Ann was a wonderful mentor and I’m quite sure that I never thanked her enough. But by serving as a mentor myself to others through the years, that is a form of thanks in itself.

 

Advice From An Unlikely Source

advice from nature

My guess is that at some time in your life you have read something written by a company called Your True Nature. I gave one of their bookmarks to my son-in-law a few years ago, and my best friend sent me one of their cards that currently is displayed on my bulletin board. But I had no idea the items were from the same company until today.

Your True Nature believes that all of nature gives the best advice to humans. The company creates clever wording to create sage adages that might be provided by various aspects of nature to help us through life. Here’s a partial list (they have over 100) of one snippet from fourteen of them.

Advice from…

Trail – Find inspiration at every turn.

Owl – Be observant.

Pumpkin – Be well rounded.

Lilac – Be scent-sational.

Osprey – Dive in.

Huckleberry – It’s ok to be a little wild.

Mermaid – Don’t get your seaweed in a bunch!

Coffee bean – Break out of the daily grind.

Elephant – Look after your herd.

The forest – Breathe deeply.

The night sky – Expand your horizons.

Lizard – Appreciate stillness.

A sled dog – Mush on!

And my personal favorite from Sasquatch: Live a legendary life!

The founder of the company was originally named Scott Alyn but in 1992 he legally changed his name to Ilan Shamir which means protector of the trees. He had nearly always had a deep love of nature. It was truly bonded when, at the age of 11, he received a magnolia tree from a favorite aunt and uncle. He planted it and cared for it for as long as his family lived at that house.

His nature connection was nourished by spending eight formative summers at camp, both as a camper and later a leader. Ilan was a guide and photographer in the Swiss Alps for some time, and he also spent a month alone in Iceland. His career decisions have always been slanted to “do what you love” and not “do what will earn you the most money.”

Ilan shares the story of how Your True Nature came about. In 1992 in the midst of some difficult times, he leaned against an old cottonwood tree and wondered about what advice the tree might give. Thoughts came to him: Stand tall. Go out on a limb. He wrote down the thoughts into a poem. From that he created a bookmark and then a postcard Advice from a tree. The first store that sold his work reordered within a week.

And the business branched out, just like that tree. In addition to the bookmarks and postcards, the company sells magnets, books, T-shirts, journals, wooden signs, and other related products.

The company appears to be quite mindful of the earth and its resources. They are active in planting trees (over a hundred thousand) and intentionally leave a small footprint by making sure their company is environmentally friendly and has sustainable practices such as printing only on recycled paper.

You know, I just might need to buy that Sasquatch t-shirt.

~~~~~~~~

Your True Nature’s site

The Luminosity of Friendship

luminosity

One of the many issues I studied while we were building our own house was that of interior lighting; how will the home be illuminated at the dimming of the day?

Like most knowledge learned for a limited slot of time for a specific purpose, I’ve forgotten most of what I took in. What I do recall is the recommendation of having various types of lighting; mix it up. For instance, instead of limiting lighting choices to downlights, use some wall sconces for uplighting to create a softer glow. You can also let a spotlight highlight a focal point.

And think creatively about the intensity of your wattage and bulbs. Interior lighting strength is one aspect that should be varied to create interest.

I was reminded of the “mix it up” advice at a craft show last week. A crafter had the most unusual lampshades on display. The shades, done up in various lovely designs such as flowers and leaves, had pinpricks applied strategically to enable tiny points of light to shine through.

Even though I’d never seen this type of work before, apparently it’s an older art form called picotage.

Look at the photo at the top of this post to view the shade I purchased. As you can see, those pinpricks provide the illusion of raindrops or ice crystals on the evergreen bough. For whatever reason, I feel a sense of peaceful well-being looking at this shade that’s lit with a “soft” lightbulb.

It’s all very Zen.

And I got to thinking about how some of my friends are bright spotlights. They’re intense and you know the moment they enter a room. Then some of my friends are the wall sconces in my life; they never draw attention to themselves but instead cast a soft glow on others.

And a few special friends are like my new lampshade. These ladies are quietly beautiful, seemingly lit from within with a certain warmth and radiance. And yes, I feel that same sense of peaceful well-being just knowing they’re in my life.

If asked to give advice on choosing friends, I’d say do the same as in choosing lighting. Mix it up. How boring life would be if we chose to surround ourselves with just one type. Trust me…I know that my life would not be as full and fun without those spotlight and wall sconce friends. And I hope you are blessed to have a few tiny-points-of-light friends in your mix.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Forbes.com article on lighting your house

New York Times piece on picotage

 

Hook, Line, and Stinker

banana

If you go online at all, I’m sure you’ve seen the hooks to get you to click on a story. You know…hooks like these:

See for yourself why What’s-his-face’s last video is cringeworthy!

Remember What’s-her-name? You won’t believe what she looks like now!

When this photograph went viral, it sparked major reactions!

Experts insist that you need to STOP doing THIS right now!

In my head the hooks, said aloud, would be in the over-the-top perky voices of female early morning newscasters. May I just say those voices get on my last good nerve? I usually leave the room when my husband insists on watching early morning television. The news people want us to believe that anything else that’s happening in the world is much more exciting than our plain vanilla lives.

One titled something like “20 Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing!” tricked me into reading it the other day. I stopped at #3 because the myths were so ridiculous that no one in his/her right mind would ever have believed any of them.

My friend Stephanie announced this week that she deleted the Facebook app from her phone. Since she is a social media consultant, this was a brave step for her. Facebook is important to her business and to her clients’ businesses. So she hasn’t given up Facebook; she simply went from being tied to it as close as her phone might be to checking it just once a day on her laptop. Stephanie says it’s a great relief and that she feels a sense of freedom. And PS – she hasn’t missed anything of earth-shaking importance.

If you want to have more time in your day for what’s really important, just stop clicking on these trickster headlines. Although when I was searching for headline examples on MSN, I did come across the nutritional value of eating a banana every day and it’s included here. Just because!

If You Don’t Eat a Banana Every Day, This Might Convince You to Start