Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Monday, November 18, 2013

The run up ...

So for a change ... I am going to be a big girl ... a responsible and courteous blogger ... and announce that I will be on a blog break (short one) until after Thanksgiving.

We are in "the run up" to the busiest time of the year. I don't multi-task well anymore.  Juggling multiple priorities just isn't as seamless as it used to be.  Blocking time and being focused is the only answer.

For example, here is a sampling ...

This year we are having two ... yes, two ... Thanksgiving dinners - spaced about 4 hours apart.  And I am not cooking either one!! It should be, however, a crazy day.  First we are heading out to see Mom in Assisted Living to have a meal with her.  It will be great fun as almost all her family will be coming.  Most residents are mobile enough to go home for a brief visit on the holidays, so mom's building will get very quiet and somewhat empty.  Not the best place to be when it is Turkey Day.  We are hoping to fill mom's morning and early afternoon with family and fun - so that her Thanksgiving also has some zest to it.  The plan is to get there early enough to watch the parades and then share a meal - Thanksgiving dinner #1.  It isn't ideal - but it is the best we can manage when she is so immobile.  Then we are heading into Baltimore City to have Thanksgiving dinner #2 with friends.  We are really looking forward to this.  They live in an old Victorian Townhome - built before 1900 - and it is always great fun to visit them.

Then there is my upcoming physical therapy that starts this week.  Intense but short in duration, thankfully.   And my weekly exercise classes, and my daily walks and my soon-to-start exercise videos on off class days.  I hope I don't kill myself in the name of good health.  Wouldn't that be ironic!!  My walking routine is going great guns!  I am averaging 11,000 steps per day and climbing.  I am so grateful that my body responds so well to exercise and the transition from inactive to active is always pretty fast.  Guess it is nature's way of saying ... no excuses, just do it!!

I haven't started my Christmas shopping - and since I am an online shopper, that really needs to start happening this week.

I need to decorate early for Christmas - since our usual "after-Christmas Christmas Party" will be a "before-Christmas Christmas Party" this year.  My decorating is markedly reduced but it will still take a few hours.

And although I significantly slimmed down my Christmas "to-dos" last year - and will continue to do so this year - there are things that need to be done - starting now.  I enjoy the holiday way more if I get my Christmas tasks done by mid-December.  Then I can focus on a relaxed and happy holiday.

This list doesn't end there, but it is a start.

And although I said "happy holiday" in my previous breath, the truth is I find this time of year stress filled.  I hate the deadline feel of the month, the sad memories of a few holidays recently that were not so merry, the loss of the old way of celebrating because mom is so limited and unable to fully participate.  Times change and so do traditions.  Building new traditions and happy memories takes time.  

But, for now, during this time of year, "happy" is still a relative term for me.  Getting to January is my goal.

So welcome to the flavor of my life right now.

Back in mid-December.

Friday, November 15, 2013


In Blog World it seems like November is the month for giving thanks publicly for all of our blessings ... and everyone's life is filled with blessings if they just look!

This process of giving thanks is a way to honor our American holiday of Thanksgiving.

I visit a number of wonderful blogs - some devote one post to gratitude, some do it all month long, and some do it periodically throughout the year.  What a wonderful way to create a "gratitude journal."  I have heard from many sources that a gratitude journal is a very effective method of making your own life joy filled.

I clearly have not done it at all.

So here goes. My list for November 2013 - and I will go for 20!

The big things I am grateful for:

  1. This blog.  I would never have discovered my love of writing without it or discover such wonderful blog friends.  Without this blog I'd have had no place to vent pour out my thoughts. They would pile up in my head and leak out my ears and generally make my life constipated. (hmm ... better stop that line of imagery now.)  
  2. For my wonderful body.  It responds soooo well to exercise ... like when my knee gave out.  It is healthier than many of my peer group - without much help from me I might add.  It continues to run problem free (knock on wood) despite the fact I don't always fuel it with healthy things.
  3. For my mind.  So far ... so good - at least that is what my mind is telling me about itself today. 
  4. For my family.  Really ... my "by-chance blood relatives" are great.  Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road, but a loving family makes the struggles of life easier.
  5. My retirement.  I have been known to say that "someday I will really get to retire."  But truthfully, without retirement almost 7 years ago I wouldn't have had the time or energy to be there for my mom.  She was and is my first retirement project.
  6. For my mom.  I am so lucky to have her still with me.  At 87 (next February she will be 88), I know my time with her is limited. Her struggles with aging have put perspective on my own older years.  I also discovered a level of compassion I wouldn't have seen in myself without her.
  7. For my town home.  This town home has housed so much of my life over 28 years.  Kids, mothers, deaths, weddings, friends, parties, hobbies, sadness and joy.  I discovered just this year how important all that was.  Yes, we were thinking of moving, but when that decision was tabled ... relief!  I guess I wasn't ready to give up these 4 walls and the memories they hold just yet.
  8. My room full of yarn and stuff.  Nu'ff said!  :-)
  9. My grand dogs and my cats.  Meathead, Grimace and Milo.  Wally and Max.  Just last November my dear Meathead was so sick (at 10 years of age - old for an English Bull Dog) that euthanasia was a thought looming in all our minds.  One year later (now 11 years of age and very old), he is doing just fine.  Dogs are such great companions because they make you feel pretty special.  Cats are such great companions because they tell it like it is - "Think your pretty special?  Think again."
  10. My husband.  Who drives me crazy some days, who is losing his vision all days, but who has stood by my side for 44 years worth of days - through some pretty dark times.  
Now for the smaller stuff:
  1. My computer, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle - wow, am I on board with the electronic life or what!
  2. My Subaru - such a reliable car. 
  3. My water bottle - that reminds me all the time to "Drink more water!"
  4. Coffee - my first friend of the day
  5. Wine - my last friend of the day - the friend that rewards me while I cook dinner and gets me through this process 365 days a year.  Thank God one glass is supposed to be heart healthy.  Thank you God!
  6. Veggies - my new best friend. Thank you Mother Nature!
  7. My FitBit Flex pedometer - that keeps me off my butt a little bit more.  A Mother's Day gift from my daughter.  Thank you Kris.
  8. My causal wardrobe - if I had to wear heels and dress clothes everyday I would puke!
  9. My lists - that keep me from day-dreaming my time away.
  10. My quiet time - time to look "inside" yourself and see how things are going.
You know, when you do this process - look for the things you are grateful to have - the list can be endless.  And the stuff that seems to be lacking - fades away for a bit.

A good thing to do!  And I do feel more joy-filled!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

First let me say ... have no intention of living to 100 years of age.  If it happens, ok.  But it is not a goal!

Far from it!
Photo curtesy of
But what is a goal is being active and engaged in all the years of my life that are left to me.  And over the last 5 years I have sadly discovered that I cannot just slip freely through life at the same level of function as I did when I was 20 or 30 or even 40.  Really, staying normal now appears to take way more work on my part ... if I want "active and engaged."

And after taking care of my mom ... and still involved in elder care first hand ... I most definitely was to be active and engaged!!

In this regard I can highly recommend John Robbins' book - Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples.

To be totally honest, I didn't expect all that much from a book with the title - Healthy at 100.  It sounds too much like so many of those self-help books that really helps no one but the author who benefits from the proceeds of the sale.  Why I bought it I will never know!  But I am so grateful that I did.

To begin with the author is the son of one of the founders of the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream empire.  No, he doesn't support the eating of ice cream, and he did include a rather unbiased story about how the author's life style choices went over with his father ... not well!  But John Robbins' background is certainly interesting in light of the fact he comes from such a well known ice cream company.

To summarize the book as briefly as possible - the book begins with a look at several of the world's most long lived peoples.  That section is interesting all by itself.  Then he isolates the characteristics that enabled these peoples to live long and joyous lives, and applies these characteristics to our culture and the choices we make.  As the back cover quotes, "With an emphasis on simple, wholesome, yet satisfying fare, a manageable daily exercise routine and the cultivation of strong, loving personal relationships, Robbins gives us the tools for making our later years a period of wisdom, vitality, and happiness."

Yep!  That says it all.  After listening to the audio version, I promptly visited two books stores seeking a hard copy because over and over again there were sections I wanted to underline, refer to again and practice.  I needed this book in my hands and not just in my ears.  I can assure you that has never happened before in all my audio book listening.  Never.  One store was sold out and the other copy had one copy (Now they are sold out too.)  :-)

Yes, I do plan to re-read this book and mark it up so that I have reminders when I forget or lose my way in trying to stay active and engaged. That also doesn't ever happen.  I never re-read books.

Now I will say - there is no magic pill offered in the text.  It all comes down to eat good, keep moving, stay connected.  Really, it is not a new premise.  But John Robbins does such an excellent job of convincing you that it is worth the time to make the effort ... including the studies and human history to support the premise ...  that you can make a difference to your own older years and that it is never too late.

I will close with a statement from the book that is so true.

"Many people in modern societies today succumb to the belief that aging means
 becoming the helpless victim of a slow, tortuous, and inevitable deterioration. 
 They live in fear, believing that with each passing year
 they will only feel worse and suffer more.  
They do not exercise.
  They eat unhealthful foods.
  They shut down emotionally.
  Eventually, their fear becomes self-fulfilling, 
and they create the very tragedy they believed would occur."

This book is worth your time!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Steak or Beans

 if 5 years ago someone said
 ... you will consider going vegetarian ... 
I would have laughed them out of the room 
(and then locked the door.)

Lately, my body just doesn't seem interested in beef or pork or poultry or lamb. Even fish seems to be on my endangered list of things going in my mouth.

My body is just changing (along with those recently discovered arthritic knees) and it doesn't desire meat.  Even bacon ... that heavenly, tasty, mouth-savoring bacon ... maybe 2 pieces are fine, but not the fist full I used to be able to ingest before it registered in my mind I had swallowed that much.

In fact, that BLT sandwich (Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich) I so loved ALL my life - that fed my pregnant body while I grew my son .... that sandwich I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner back then (and for snack if no one was looking) - that sandwich now sounds really better if I toast a hearty piece of bread, spread on full fat mayo, and layer on lettuce and tomato, skipping the bacon.

Something is changing ... I think it is a positive change.  Really ... at 66 how many positive changes can you really expect with regards to your body?  From where I sit ... watching my mom age and decline ... the answer to that question is NONE!!

So I will take it!  If I don't need meat - if that love affair has come to an end - so be it!  Onward - and fall in love with something else.

Like vegetables!

Does this mean I will become a zealot regarding the "wonders of a vegetarian life style."  Oh my no.  I still love and eat things like cheese and eggs.  I will continue to use chicken and beef broth in cooking.  I am not looking to go "low fat" or "low carb" or low anything else.  And since I am married to a "meat and potatoes" man, I will still cook meat - so at times - I will probably still eat a little of it.

This change is not the result of political concerns or environmental issues or animal rights.  I abhor the way our meat producing industry treats the animals, but I also accept the reality of that industry.  There are one heck of a lot of homo sapiens on the planet - and I believe we are both meat and vegetable eating beings naturally.

But I will make a sincere effort to understand the "no meat" point of view with regards to healthy options.  I have already started getting educated.  Here are a few titles I currently have in my arsenal to support my new food choices.

The China Study
 by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell
Comprehensive Study of Nutrition and the implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health.

Bean by Bean: A Cookbook
by Crescent Dragonwagon
An introduction to beans and other legumes with 175 recipes

Healthy at 100:

The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples
by John Robbins
This is not a cook book or a diet book.  This author takes you around the world to meet pockets of people who routinely live healthy active lives - typically over the age of 100 - many to ages of 120 and 130.  He examines their life styles and the foods they eat.  It is extremely well-researched.   He finds common themes that can influence and improve our own lives.  I am currently listening to the audio version and it is fascinating.  

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00
by Mark Bittman
Mark Bittman is a prolific food writer.  
Six years ago he was overweight and pre-diabetic and was told to go on a vegan diet or go on medication.  His solution was to become a "flexitarian."   He adopted a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits and grains following a healthy vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or processed food) all day. After 6:00 pm he'd eat what he wanted, though mostly in moderation.  Beyond that, his plan involved no gimmicks, scales, calorie counting or point system.  There were no forbidden foods. Although the Vegan focus is not on my radar, I look forward to reading this book published in May 2013 - as his point of view seems to be similar to my own goals.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
This is a 3 inch thick book - and, yes, it seems to cover everything.

I have a few more books on my Amazon Wish List as well.  I really love the Mark Bittman books and will be getting more.  They aren't the glossy picture filled type of cook book, but they are filled with so much information that each volume almost feels like the encyclopedia of that topic.

If you are in-the-know with regards to other good authors or sources - books, pod casts, blogs,  web sites on the vegetable based diet - please let me know.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Walking, the obstacles and truth!

I started back to walking again in October.  It was a stumble of a start.

So here goes the saga of the stumble.

First I had to find time to squeeze it in the hours of my life.  As a retired person that should be a piece of cake. It wasn't.  I persisted.  And the walking sessions became more frequent.

Really.  If it is something that is worthwhile doing - you find the time.  That is the simple truth.  And that is what I kept telling myself.  So I found the time.

Then I discovered that my FitBit battery was dead - and I couldn't find the cable recharger anywhere.  Yes, yes, yes, I know!  The walk still counts even if I don't know how many steps I am taking.  But it sure puts a crimp in my enthusiasm when I can't confirm just how active I was or wasn't at the end of the day.  So I sat down and order two cables!  Problem solved  .... until I lose those! (Maybe I will order a few more.)

Then yesterday I visited the doctor.

You see, I have noisy knees!  They click and crack and generally talk to me!  I generally don't listen!  They talk.  I ignore.  It was a "marriage" that worked for years.  Then the beginning of September the noise got louder - added to the clicks and cracks was the occasional pain.  One morning I couldn't walk down my stairs very well.  The left knee was talking in a very loud voice.  I assumed injury.  No matter.  Most things get better if you just give them enough time (ignore them).  It did get better.  Then it didn't.  More time.  Got better again.  Then it came back.  The noise level was louder and more frequent.  But I had perfected ignoring to a masterful skill level.

I am the Black Belt of Ignoring. Ninja Ignoring!

And there was Advil ... my best friend ... !  It cured things some!  I was happy.  Until 6 hours later when I wasn't happy!


And so I made a doctor's appointment 2 weeks ago - but the knee got better before the visit - so I canceled it.   Then it came back again.

So ... yesterday I visited the doctor.  I actually stepped into the office ... thinking the whole time ... "You only gave this knee two months to get well.  Maybe you should cancel this appointment."  This is a Ninja technique.

I talked.  He listened.

He looked first at my good knee - the right one.  Said ... "Sounds like a little arthritis in that knee."

"Hey, doc ... it is the left knee that hurts ... leave my good right knee alone!  It only 'talks' some.  It is not a problem."

He looked at my left knee.  "That knee is swollen."



I looked down and sure enough.  My left knee was bigger than my right knee.  Hmmm... Was I born that way and just never noticed?  Would he believe me if I said that?

Would he commit me if I said that???

I looked again.  Yup!  Swollen!  I never actually looked at the knee.  So much for being "in tune" with my body.

He tried to bend it - it bent - mostly - just not as much as the other one!  Has it always been that way?

Don't go there, I said to my mind as I searched for other lies.

And it hurt when he bent it.   Well ... in truth ... it was hurting before he bent it!!

Truth ... 
that is what is missing in my relationship with my body 
it appears!

"Definitely bilateral arthritis of the knees,"  he proclaimed.

Double Crap!  I was hoping for an injury! You know, maybe take a few of those miracle pills, strap on a knee bace, heat, cold, maybe a little surgery ... whatever.  Crap, crap, crap.

So ... an xray was ordered, an orthopedic surgeon appointment was recommended, start taking glucosamine chondroitin, maybe injections into the knee, physical therapy and painful conversations with my knees seem to be in my future.  And he thought time spent in a gym keeping my muscles strong would be a good idea. Just Great!  I really don't like gyms.

Am I surprised by any of this?  Not really.  I am a cookie cutter copy of my mom who has struggled with arthritis in her knees for many more years than I will struggle.

But I have hung up my Ninja Ignoring Black Belt.  Can't ignore the knee any more.  I will do everything they say and will remain active because that is what works with arthritis - once you stop moving you freeze up.  I have seen that first hand in my mom.

Ok knees, I am listening now.
A walking obstacle?
I think not!