Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The short form of the eleven is:
1."Mediterranean" diet high on fish and complex carbohydrates and low on red meat and processed foods.
2. Specific dietary supplements including fish oils and folates - but more vitamins too, lots of B
3. a glass of red wine every day (for the powerful antioxidant in it)
4. anti-inflammatories daily (for some people) because inflammation may aggravate neurological decline
5. at least fifteen minutes of meditation a day - to reduce cortisol levels
6. laughter - to increase endorphins
7. keeping a broad and active social network
8. seven to eight hours good sleep a night
9. continuing to learn new skills on a regular basis
10 cardiovascular exercise
11. “neurobic” techniques outlined in a book by Duke researcher Lawrence Katz and author Manning Rubin.: Keep Your Brain Alive,. They outline an unusual brain exercise program that’s based on a solid foundation of neuroscience research. Specific kinds of sensory stimulation, they believe, like using the nondominant hand for common activities, are said to cause the brain cells to secrete molecules called neurotrophins that act like nutrients to improve cellular health.
My response to the list surprised me a little. Most of it seems easy but I feel rebellious about the dietary component. Part of my rebellion stems from the amount of red meat I prepare for Bob (fix meals to send to Corpus with him) since he is losing weight and keeping cholesterol down successfully on the Atkins diet. Its hard not to eat at least some of what I cook for him. But there is something deeper about food and me. I eat reasonably healthily if I don't think about it much, but once I start focusing on food and trying to to eat “healthy” all the time my rebel gets involved and then I want to stop eating altogether or eat a bag of Butterfingers. I wish I were saner regarding food. I need to find a balance - not an extreme.
The other area that is tough for me is laughter. I a a serious person and have never tended to laugh much. Very little makes me laugh out loud - except physical horseplay which I do enjoy. I think something like ping pong would be more likely to get me laughing than funny movies.
I wrote down the recommended supplements and want to talk to Bob about starting those for both of us, maybe anti-inflammatories too.. Meditation, exercise, and socialization, and trying new things are part of my life anyway. and this year I'm doing the best I have in years on sleeping seven or eight hours a night. I see to have gotten into the habit, which is a blessing after decades in and out of insomnia. I have red wine in the house but rarely drink it - could learn to - don't like it enough to want to overdo, but could get a glass a night down as medicine. The “neurobic” exercise and other emphasis on novelty and learning are intriguing. I want to get the neurobic book at least from the library. Just for fun I’ve been using the mouse with my left hand his evening. Tricky.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The hours leading up to the party had been packed full with Nut Cracker related activities including the photo shoot. It was fun to see KK in her Bon Bon costume - a red and white striped confection, and even more fun to see her enjoying being in the costume with her dancing friends. Bob and I also took the kids to the costume store to pick out Halloween costumes, Batman(Danny), Robin (Zach) and an adorable witch (KK).
Lately I wonder about the balance in my life. I am spending lots of time with the kids, helping them, taking care of them, and being delighted by them. I'm working long hours. I read and write and kind of keep house. I talk to Bob on the phone most days and he and I co-grandparent on the weekends he comes home, which is most of the. I think I will be satisfied that Bob and I lived our fifties this way if we both live into our healthy eighties or later - but if he were to die or become terribly incapacitated soon I would feel pretty awful about giving him (and enjoying with him) as little as I do. If I were to die or lose function soon, I think I'd be guilty of not having given enough to this good man and my marriage with him. But when I think of trying to do a major redo on our life - with much more time together and less other focus on my part, I feel overwhelmed and don't know what I would or could change.
I am still feeling the residual horror of the southern California fires ( and distress that a human could/would/did cause such horror on purpose. I hope all of you and your families out there aren't suffering too much from poor air quality - deeply disturbing. My friend Peggy, who lives in Orange County, wrote the following poem about her experience with the aftermath of the fires.
The orange-gray sky of smoke
and flame hangs heavy like some
scene from Hell. It's clear why
Dante decided to make Hell burn,
surely a nightmare with stinging eyes
and rasping throat and the orange
glow that passes for sunlight. Yet
against this Heironimous Boschesque
sky a green humming bird hovers
unaware sucking nectar from the
cape honeysuckle flutes, a reminder
that even now life goes on.
Peggy GoetzOct. 28, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I had a fun interlude in the middle of the day when I took my friend and business partner Bill out for birthday lunch. Old friendships seem to be a theme this week - last night with Jean and today with Bill. I met Bill the year Ruth was born - 26 years ago, when he was dating my dear friend Marie. We've been through so many changes since- his marriage to Marie, Kerry's illness and death, degrees, starting and growing a practice together, my marriage to Bob, several health scares, developing together as writers, critiquing and enjoying each other's work, celebrating each others hobbies and interests. He has been an admirer of and mentor for both of my daughters, and now (as a man who grew up as a child actor at the Dallas Theater Center) is someone who enjoys and understands my stories of KK and dance academy. Happy birthday Bill! You are such a blessing in my life.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Rattle de thrat, de thrat, de thrat!
Rattle de thrat, de thrat, de thrat!
Longhorn! Cactus Thorn!
Pretty silly and out of my normal mode, but tremendously fun. I have much pleasure and satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Not so much plain fun. This was FUN. I liked having a reason (making the tape sound authentic) to jump and shout and be generally silly. A sociometrist would call it role relieve, but tonight I'll be redundant and one more time call it simply fun.
Also, I was touched by my family's long connection with the University of Texas. My parents attended there in the 1930's, Mama worked in the bursar's office after graduation and Daddy was a professor there when I was born in 1950. There are buildings on campus named after people who were household names in my childhood, people of whom I have fond memories even into my adulthood. It felt both strange and sweet to hear mention of Arno Nowottney (who carried me across the street when I was three and for some crazy reason had no shoes in August) and Dorothy Gebauer (Dean of Women who was Mama's first boss and mentor, helped arrange my adoption, and remained my friend well into my marriage and her retirement). There's a Gebauer Building on campus now, and A Nowotteny room in the Alumni Center. They are part of history and deserve to be, and part of my memory too.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Watching day at ballet class was its usual treat. Its exciting to watch the young dancers progress. I've been watching some of these kids dance since they were three. Its so serious and professional now, with them going through positions, knowing all the French - receiving very subtle instruction about direction of palm and toe. KK's good, getting the technical things, the line and body mechanics perfect - strong, with great balance. She is still more technical than passionate, or was in class, but I suspect the love she feels for dance will become more obvious to the observer as her technique becomes even more second nature. Later in the afternoon I got a glimpse of the bon bon rehearsal - fun to watch the excited young dancers in rehearsal. The joy in dance was very evident then.
Even though the boys and I had the challenge of long waits downtown on Saturday, the day was over all excellent. KK was still with us on break when went to the farmers' market (near ballet) and the boys got the best face and body painting I've ever seen done by a neat woman who has a local children's' theatre company and was in Grease on Broadway for four years. She did arms as well as faces, and Danny ended up looking amazing with a glittery green gecko snaking up one arm and a golden tiger painted face mask with sparkling black nose. Zachary chose a Pokemon character whose name I can't pronounce on one cheek (think yellow science fiction cat) and a spider on the other. Both boys were delighted with the face painting and with the comments they got all afternoon about their appearance. KK was mature enough to accept that she couldn't get face or body painting because she had to go to the Nut Cracker
costume fitting next and couldn't risk getting makeup on the costumes.
While KK was at fitting and then rehearsal, the boys and I walked to the Children's Museum where I ended up having as much fun at the craft table as the boys did with gears and parachuting pigs. I love how frequently they change the exhibits, since we go often. Next week Bob will be home and we will all experience the Children's Museum's costume parade and party, as well as the Symphony's Annual Halloween concert. We've been going to that one since Joanna was on my hip - two? It has become a tradition looked forward to by a second generation of family kids now.
When the boys and I were walking to the Children's Museum, we had an unexpected treat. A fancy pet store near the dance academy was sponsoring a silent auction of designer dog houses. They were all kinds - bamboo, Plexiglas, metal, even constructed of tennis balls. And people brought their dogs to the event - ALL KINDS of dogs from tiny and easy to miss in arms to waist high and huge headed. Danny counted eighty six dogs! That was fun.
I kept up with Bob by cel phone (maybe I don't hate them altogether) while we were out and about Saturday. He had a great time taking a group of kids to the aquarium Saturday afternoon and caught up on sleep, reading and preparation this weekend when he didn't have to drive home.
The rest of the weekend was calmer. We skipped church and worked lots on homework. KK had a science assignment due - about adaptation of creatures to environment and she and I had a blast creating a little "Moss digger" out of a gray sock - think tundra prairie dog - to live in a cold world where the main predator is a big nocturnal cat. Digger of course, hides in his complicated tunnels at night and comes out in the day time. He is camouflaged by having fur the same color and texture as the moss he eats. It was fun watching KK's mind work on this project and having the supplies to help her easily create it.
Zachary followed through on last weeks promise and did not come home with unfinished work this week. He also was willing to practice his improving coloring and scissor skills for me, and happily read the small readers from his book bag repeatedly. Danny worked hard on his reading and spelling, and all the kids enjoyed the stack of old Halloween books I pulled out for the season.
Yesterday Ruth bought KK a green bike (as she has outgrown her old bike) . The Green Goddess is perfect for our girl and her arrival led to an afternoon of fun with bikes in the yard and down the street for Ruth,Chris, KK and the boys and I. It was a bright breezy mild afternoon - the kind that kept us outside until last light - KK and I on the bench reading Bella at Midnight to each other and the boys up in KK's tree and then bowling with pine cones for balls and pins both on the driveway.
Today is the first rainy fall day - fifties into forties tonight. I'm enjoying being inside watching it rain outside - but do want to get a walk in with a jacket. You never know here in Austin if it will get hot again. I hope not.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I had homework and dance studio tie with the kids this evening - really intriguing for me to watch them at different stages in the learning process - from learning to use scissors (Zachary) to capitalization rules (Danny) to doing perimeter problems with decimals (KK). I a,so feel a totally unmerited pride in the kids' willingness to eat a wide variety of not"kid stereotype" foods. Tonight the boys split a huge exotic salad with avocado and cheese, chicken, tomato - all sorts of lettuces - and really enjoyed it - wolfed their fresh fruit desserts - and yes, did happily eat brownies too. I can't take credit for the healthy eating, but it pleases me.
Summer is ending. The evenings are cooler and the mornings, though the sun still is warm in the afternoons. When I look out my window in daylight I still see the canopy of late summer leaves - fading a little but green green against the sky - I wonder how long before it starts shifting - One week? Two? It should be soon.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I've been thinking more about the issue of "everything happens for a reason" and realizing that it is a STRONG button issue for me. I am a universalist and believe there are any truths and many ways to truth, many paths toward wholeness and the divine. It is important to e to accept a multiplicity of paths. And here I sit , really distressed by and wanting to dissuade people from the "everything happens for a reason view.
Many of my friends who argue divine reason speak in terms of lessons and karma and a divine plan which puts us always where we need to be - so that when terrible things happen to innocents perhaps it is the plan that they face these terrible things. That scares me. i neither absolutely believe in reincarnation or rule it out. I don't rule out much or believe in much as absolutely true. the main thing I believe in is the importance of our individual choices. If I stand back and let things I believe are clearly harmful go on around me because I believe everything happens for a reason, that's dangerous. I think free will can get out of hand and I'm responsible for using my own free will to do as much good and as little harm as I can. I get scared by the "for a reason" belief because I think it can permit us to stand back when we should take action.
As far as terrible things happening to innocents and the way that can be framed to have a place in a reasoned universe, someone I once respect said "souls may choose, but children don't." I 'm not sure about souls. I know children don't choose and if I have to choose between protecting a child and possible denying its child a lesson its soul chose to learn through abuse or starvation, I'll protect the child.
the deep spiritual connection I feel with the divine and with my faith tradition is a source of comfort and strength, and is something I use to inform and strengthen my choices. If I have to choose between belief and action (and I don't think we do) I choose action.
My comforting thought, instead of "Everything happens for a reason." is more "Whatever happens I choose how I use it."
I found a quote tonight - by one who should know, that I resonate to:
if I stand back and let things I believe are clearly harmful go on around me because I believe everything happens for a reason, that's dangerous. I think free will can get out of hand and it takes I'm responsible for using my own free will to do as much good and as little harm as I can. I get scared by the "for a reason" belief because I think it can permit us to stand back when we should take action.
As far as terrible things happening to innocents and the way that can be framed to have a place in a reasoned universe, someone I respect said "souls may choose, but children don't." I 'm not sure about souls. I know children don't choose and if I have to choose between protecting a child and possible denying its soul a lesson that soul chose before entering a body to learn through abuse or starvation, I'll protect the child.
Whatever spiritual connections I feel with the Divine and my faith traditions are sources of comfort and strength,which I use to inform and strengthen my choices. If I have to choose between belief and action (and I don't think we do) I choose action.
My comforting thought, instead of "Everything happens for a reason." is more "Whatever happens I choose how I use it."
I add a quote that resonates to what I'm feeling tonight, from one who learned in most difficult circumstances.
Viktor Frankl wrote:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The holy day associated with Halloween is the next day, All Soul's Day, the Day of the Dead in the Latin cultures. I loved the All Soul's Day mass as I've experienced it in Catholic and Episcopal churches, though it is not a Jewish observance. It is a meaningful one to me. I wrote a poem last week about the way I feel about the spiritual sense of this time of year.
Dreamer in me believes
as sun angles shift down
and air cools, spirits of
the beloved dead linger
closer to earth, shadows
through the veil, familiar.
but back to the earthly celebrations starting up, Saturday the neighborhood association in Joanna's neighborhood held its annual Hairy Man Festival in the park across the street from Joanna's house, and Bob and I and the kids attended. For an introvert who isn't great in crowds, I had fun doling out tickets and watching the grand kids meet friends from school and delight in petting alpacas and llamas, climbing inflated structures, and just enjoying being out in their community.
Saturday, also was the first day I really got to spend time in KK's dance world at the new, very impressive, Ballet Austin facility . If you want to know more about the company academy and facility check out http://www.enewsbuilder.net/grtraustinchamber/e_article000807313.cfm?x=b11,0,w For more about The Nut Cracker and Austin's version of it look athttp://www.balletaustin.org/documents/nutcracker_footnotes.pdf. but for me the coolest thing wasn't just the beautiful new openly designed building full, light air, and dancers and musicians of different levels busily perfecting their crafts. The coolest thing was that this is KK's home base. I went up the spiral staircase, clearly for the first time, gaping all around and a member of the company asked me who I was looking for. "An eleven year old redhead..." I started "Oh, KK, she answered with a grin - third door to the right. She's in tap."
And she was. This is the first year she's been in the open classes with dancers of all ages and she is so in her element, so happy, not even obviously tired after a day of four classes and a rehearsal with some Hairy Man festival in between. Her tap teacher, a young man she especially likes and admires, caught me ont he stairs and told me that KK is a delightful person and a joy as a student, but that there is clearly something exciting going on with her development as a dancer. She feels it. She's flying, that one.
And then there's St. Austin's Catholic Church, an odd place to have become such a station of hope and learning for this nontraditional Jewish girl. But that church is so alive with a real desire to help people grow spiritually and use that growth in service. Yesterday while the kids were in their classes, I started the adult Sunday School program, a little timidly. It was superb - about poverty in the US and our appropriate response. The name of the curriculum is something like "All Our Neighbors" The statistics are that one in nine Americans and one in six children are officially poor. Yesterday we watched a documentary about three working poor families - their circumstances and feelings. The film and discussion really pointed out the increasing bimodalism in our economy and the need for some kind of nationalized health care - things I knew about already but which were humanized by the film. I was also touched to be sitting with about thirty other adults of various ages, seriously thinking about, full of questions and ideas about, issues of poverty in our world.
Yesterday evening was hard. I had known KK had lots of homework, which she did during the afternoon and that Danny had some, which he did before supper, but at just as Bob was trying to leave around six, I looked in Zachary's backpack and he had a big stack of unfinished work from the week. He apparently had let the difficulty of cutting and coloring get to him as a kindergartner who hadn't gone to preschool, and hadn't done what he needed to do. I was angry and felt overwhelmed. Zachary also felt angry and overwhelmed. Within half an hour though, Zachary, Danny, KK and I were sitting at the kitchen table with all Zachary's oddly assorted work spread out, and the four of us made sense of it and with some help, Zachary did it. He is beginning to get the hang of scissors, which has got to help, and is coloring better and more willing to take direction about planning how to color something. I think he was as proud as he (and I ) were both relieved when we packed his pack full of finished work at the end. The last thing he said before going to sleep was "I'll do my best all week at school." and I really think he will.
I enjoyed doing ordinary things with Bob this weekend - grocery shopping and taking the kids back and forth. I don't miss having that during the week. I'm used to life being like it is and I'm so happy Bob is finding work that is good for hi at Menger. Sometimes I do wonder how it would be if we could live together like most couples. Its hard on him to have to drive back and forth weekends. Next weekend he will stay in Corpus and take another group of kids to the aquarium, which is probably good.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Soon after learning that Gore had won the prize, I received his email note to supporters, which I am including here for those who may not have received it directly. I so respect and admire this man. I just put the Alliance for Climate Protection link in my favorite places. I figure if he is giving his peace prize money to these people I should at least be reading their articles and writing letters on their cause's behalf.
I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--the world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis--a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level. My wife, Tipper, and I will donate 100 percent of the proceeds of the award to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.
Also, discussion online with friends about Gore and the Nobel Peace Prize brought up a philosophical concern for me - one that is common because I seem to have an unusual opinion about life purpose and our level of power in it. My friend wrote that she believes things happen for a reason and that maybe the wonderful environmental work Al Gore has done - the opportunity to do it, I guess - is the reason he was robbed of the Presidency after being elected. I just don't buy that.I don't know if he could have done more or less good as President - and that doesn't matter for this argument. When the Presidency was stolen from him, Al Gore, in my world view, was put at a major choice point. He could have done so many things - from fighting the decision to make Bush President, to getting bitter and quitting on trying to be of service, just drinking and satirically bashing the administration, to focusing on family and friends only to continuing to try to run for office to jumping off a building ...endless and wildly varied choices. He chose (among other more private choices, of course) to put his energy into educating people about and fighting global warming. What a wonderful and possibly world-saving choice! Thank you Al Gore.
I don't believe things happen for a reason. So many things happen that shouldn't. I think its a dangerous belief, this "things happen for a reason." It somehow defangs evil actions, as if they are destined and it is clear people will turn them for good. Sometimes people don't. People make poor choices every day. Self included.
I think we are not in control of what happens to us or what we feel when it first happens. We are in control of what we do with our feelings. Feelings are energy, and like all energy cannot be destroyed but can be converted form to form. When we hurt we can just keep hurting - let the energy remain in the form of pain, anger. and hurt - let it fester into resentment and bitterness. We can convert the energy into a quest for revenge or mayhem and use it to hurt others. Or we can convert that energy into some other form - as Al Gore did - hard work, art, service.
Again, Thank you, Al Gore.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Stolen ten minutes resting
on pile of pillows between
soft sheets, north breeze
on walk to bus stop, positive
note from my editor, hug
from a client, Joanna's smile,
making the bank deposit on time,
Zachary making his Z forward
and reading "Silly Sandwich"
to me four times, grinning,
Danny spelling "said" right, finally,
writing creative sentences,
eating four sandwiches and calling
them delicious, KK cutting jazz patterns
in the hall and having a 100 average in math,
learning a friend is cancer free
reading a Laura Lippman mystery
in the tub full of jasmine bubbles,
losing track of time, stretching,
Bob's call, moments before I meant
to call him, lingering in conversation,
coming late to the computer,
having challenges to write,
knowing tomorrow is a light day at work
considering retreating, with book, to pile of
pillows, to sleep between soft sheets.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Piles of pumpkins, heavy, opulent,
orange, rough textured, feminine fruit,
autumnal, mysterious, mutiseeded,
each a canvas for artistry, a potential
face, unique, co-created with the carver.
exciting, waiting, piles of pumpkins
Friday, October 05, 2007
I had a great work week, hearing many comments from people about their pleasure in finding greater spiritual balance, more skills for behaving kindly in the world - and yet the context of the world is so harsh, or much of it. Odd.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Having the longer weekend with Bob really was special. Mostly we just held onto each other and enjoyed doing not much. Part of me is jealous of couples our age who are financially able to retire early (and I assume get to just hold onto each other and mostly do what they want) all the time. But the truth is Bob found his right life work late and would not be ready to quit teaching now even if it were possible financially and I still love my work. It's not time for us to have time on our hands and our hands on each other all the time, but I do feel wistful about that sometimes. I don't think living together full time would make much difference with both of us working. We aren't real good at giving each other full attention during busy work weeks.
Today I have enjoyed letter writing and catching up on details before the busy work week gets going tomorrow. Joanna and I had lunch out together - always a treat. This evening the boys are here while KK dances. They have done their homework and had their dinner - such sweet boys. Earlier this afternoon they filled the backyard with soccer playing sounds, new sounds for this particular back yard.
Ruth has decided to close the photo studio and I have mixed feelings about that - sad not to have her next door at the office. She feels further away living in Round Rock and working out there than living in Jourdonton and having an office address next door to mine. But I am happy with the photo adventure she took - all the beautiful pictures of Bob and me and so many others - real soul photos. I know there will be more radiant photos even without the studio. And I'm thrilled Ruth is finding a passion in education. There are so many ways to make a difference in the world.
Too high a percentage of my social needs are dependant on my daughters I think. I have wonderful online friends, and wonderful local friends too, but not anybody who seems to have time to go out and play with me. And I'd like that - a restaurant trying, gardening together, going clothes shopping, book discussing fooling around kind of friend. I think I will try harder to find such. Kind of scary. I'm good at being a friend but not so much at making new friends.
This work week will be especially busy and I'm working on staying calm with that, not dreading it. I just looked at the long term weather forecast and it is supposed to get down to 60 next Sunday night. Just knowing that lifts my spirits a little. I love fall.