Friday, July 31, 2009

Only you can help seniors to remember their medicine!

From Science Daily:

Doing something unusual, like knocking on wood or patting yourself on the head, while taking a daily dose of medicine may be an effective strategy to help seniors remember whether they've already taken their daily medications, suggests new research.

So won't you please help the seniors out by doing something unusual today when you take your medicine?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kelly Lambert at VFOB

Kelly Lambert spoke last night at the Virginia Festival of the Book about her book, Lifting Depression, and about her neuroscience research. She was a personable and engaging speaker whose views about depression did not seem as extreme as those expressed in her book. Her research into what she calls the "effort based rewards" system is fascinating. There's little doubt that the effort-based rewards feedback loop is broken in people with depression and the suggestion from Lambert's rodent research that this reward system could be retrained is encouraging.

Lambert specifically suggests knitting as one possible activity that might help depression, and serendipitously there was someone in the audience who was knitting. She agreed that it is a relaxing and rewarding activity.

Lambert has convinced me that I should try doing more things with my hands such as cooking, baking pies, and painting lobsters as I did last week. (No lobsters were harmed during this activity.) Creating is fun and can make people feel good, whether it cures depression or not.

Justine Willis Toms at VFOB

Justine Willis Toms, author of Small Pleasures and co-author of True Work, appeared at the Virginia Festival of the Book last night. Her picture here looks a little blurry but that's the photographer's fault -- she's not really blurry in person. She's really lovely in person, with a warm smile for everyone. She began her talk by saying we are living in a time of great growth and recommended that we try to turn worry and fear into curiosity and optimism, which I thought was good and timely advice.

Toms was soothing yet challenging. She encouraged optimism during the present moment, which is a challenge for lots of us right now. She encouraged living your dreams and had the audience write down what they most wanted and what they needed to be happy. I wrote that I don't know. I even underlined "I don't know."

Justine Willis Toms might have me convinced that I'm not dreaming big enough.

If you missed her last night, she's appearing again tonight at 6 pm in the City Council Chambers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hardships and healing panel, VFOB

Writers Susan Skolnick-Lozano, Russell U. Richards, and James Herndon with moderator Faith Andrews Bedford.

Today was the first day of the Virginia Festival of the Book and I went to my first session at 6 pm at the Northside Library. The panel was entitled "When Life Takes a Turn: Authors Write About Hardships and Healing." It was an interesting, well-moderated session which addressed more writing issues than healing issues. Each author read for a few minutes from his/her book, and then fielded questions from the moderator and the audience.

Responding to a question about what they had learned about themselves while writing their books, Richards said that he discovered that things he had believed about himself weren't true; Skolnick-Lozano discovered that she was a great motivator with the ability to get people to believe in themselves; and Herndon discovered that he was a naive young man, adding that writing his book was one of the happiest periods of his life.

I was touched by these authors' willingness to reveal very personal things about themselves in their books. Skolnick-Lozano said that one reason she wrote and was willing to share such personal information was that "people need to know they're not alone." Amen to that.

More tomorrow. The Book Fest goes through Sunday -- check out the schedule and come to some events!

True Work

One of a series of posts about the Virginia Festival of the Book:

True Work
was written a decade ago by Michael Toms and Justine Willis Toms, the co-founders of New Dimensions Radio, and is about following your bliss as it pertains to your working life. I was going to write a really short review of this book, saying that I love any book with a sentence like this in it:
A regrettable case of degenerative curmudgeonliness befell a small office we knew.
Is that not a perfect sentence? I think it is. The rest of the book is warm, encouraging, and quotes lots of excellent teachers on the subject of work and life. If you're in a rut, or have a dream you've been wanting to follow, you would do well to read this book. My work life has been in a bit of upheaval lately, my time being doled out to several divisions, and I liked hearing about "walking through the valley" of bad times and how we can learn important things there. The Toms also encourage readers to set up their own True Work Circles in order to give and get support. There's a lot to like about this book. It's spiritually sensible in a kind of new-agey way.

Michael Toms had to cancel, but Justine Willis Toms will be at the Book Fest on Thursday night (see below). I'm looking forward to hearing her speak, and hope to see a lot of people there.


New Dimensions: True Work

Justine Willis Toms, co-host of the award-winning New Dimensions radio show, joins success coach Michelle Prosser to talk about doing what you love and loving what you do.

Thu. March 19th, 2009 8:00 PM

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lifting depression?

One of several posts about the Virginia Festival of the Book:

Kelly Lambert's book, Lifting Depression, is an interesting read. Her basic premise is that the lack of what she calls "effort-based rewards" can lead to depression. She uses a combination of current research and evolutionary psychology to make this argument. Effort-based rewards are just what they sound like, working (expending effort) to attain a goal. Lambert thinks that if that goal is the creation of something tangible, so much the better. She tells us she beat depression by vacuuming, and recommends other activities such as knitting and sewing and cooking meals, which primarily use the hands and produce material objects. She argues that our ancestors did a lot more work with their hands and they had much lower rates of depression. I'm not sure we know what the ancient rates of depression were. Depression isn't a new thing; melancholia has been with us for a long time. It's diagnosed more now, and I would argue that's because of the continuing destigmatization (which unfortunately still has a long way to go).

I wouldn't object to Lambert's ideas as being of possible assistance in depression, had she not seen fit to trash the use of antidepressants and therapy along the way. I myself would not be able to FIND the vacuum cleaner without antidepressants, and while they may be overprescribed by general practitioners who have no business prescribing them, they are invaluable for those with moderate to severe depression. Lambert refers to meds at one point as "masking uncomfortable but important feelings." That's absolutely untrue. On meds, I laugh, cry, feel joy, feel anger -- feel the full range of human emotions. Without them, in the throes of depression, I feel only the low end of the spectrum, and my lows are lower than most. Lambert refers to depression as being useful in that it points to problems in our lives. While that can be true, people with depression are likely to fall into an episode with no trigger at all. Even when triggered, depression as a reaction is overkill. It's maladaptive.

There's nothing wrong at all with taking a multifaceted approach to treating depression, and I know lots of knitters who find knitting a fun and relaxing hobby. And I agree that making things from scratch can be incredibly satisfying. But there have been times in my past when I had anhedonia, the inability to take pleasure in anything, and I certainly tried to do things to bring myself out of it, but guess what worked? Therapy and medication.

If you have depression, I think it makes sense to try whatever might work to alleviate it. Exercise, cook, knit -- all of that. But I would also recommend finding a good psychiatrist and pursuing medical treatment. It's an illness with a high rate of relapse. Get treatment.

Kelly Lambert is speaking about her book at the Virginia Festival of the Book this Thursday. Hope to see you there.

Lifting Depression: Have Important Clues Been in Our Hands All Along?

Thu. March 19th, 2009 6:00 PM

Kelly Lambert (Lifting Depression) considers both our ancestors' lifestyles and the evolution of the mammalian brain to generate novel ideas and offer help for the skyrocketing rates of depression in contemporary society.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hardships and healing

One of a series of posts about Virginia Festival of the Book events:

The three authors participating in VFOB's "When Life Takes a Turn" panel have all faced adversity in their lives in different ways. Two have serious illnesses and one helped her daughter recover from a traumatic brain injury. In reading their books, I focused on the theme of this panel -- facing hardships and healing.

Russell U. Richards' book, The Arts and Innards of Russell U. Richards!, was specific and detailed in chronicling both the writer's artistic journey and the natural history of his illness, ulcerative colitis. At times quite blunt and detailed, this made for a good story.

I would not be surprised to learn that this book was dictated, as it reads very much as if Richards is just telling the reader his story. The author's voice, while not polished, is authentic and because it is, his story is quite compelling, equally as compelling as the reproductions of his artwork which are printed in the book. The way health and artistic life are intertwined in the story is interesting. Richards' art is not easily categorized but I really enjoyed a lot of it, particularly The Isle of Life which is brimming with, well, life and color.

Riding at Fairhunt seems meant for a younger audience, possibly young people beginning a life of horsemanship. Susan Skolnick-Lozano delivers advice about life and attitude among the practical rules of riding. I would have been interested to hear more about her daughter's recovery post-traumatic brain injury. What she writes is brief and to the point, and her can-do positive attitude permeates the story.

Jack's Shop, while a nostalgic memoir of growing up in Madison County, ends just as the author/narrator, James Herndon, is coming down with encephalitis. The author is thus presumed to have lived through the adversity of a serious illness, but it all takes place after the time period covered by the book. The author plans two sequels, however.

I look forward to hearing these three writers talk about their experiences at the panel this Wednesday. I hope you'll join me there.


When Life Takes a Turn: Authors Write About Hardships and Healing

Wed. March 18th, 2009 6:00 PM

James Herndon (Jack's Shop: Beyond the Front Porch), Susan Skolnick-Lozano (Riding at Fairhunt... For Love, Life and Therapy) and Russell Richards (The Arts and Innards of Russell U. Richards!) discuss their books of personal difficulties and triumphs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crack eggs

Let's see, today was Ash Wednesday -- that means -- if I'm calculating correctly -- why YES: the Cadbury's mini-eggs are in the stores right now. Every year I pick up this habit, only to be forced to go cold turkey when Easter rolls around and they disappear. You'd think I'd learn and pick up some extra, but I'm in denial. I'm so in thrall to these little beasts that I think I will be happy once they're gone and I am a free woman. But then the next year rolls around, and the cycle begins anew...

The devil incarnate.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A week without freedom

It has been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. I still do not have a license to drive. People have been so helpful and kind to me, especially my neighbor who has been driving me to work every day, that it seems churlish to complain, but I really, really do not like the feeling of not being able to jump into my car and go wherever I want.

A dear friend of mine helped me identify this malaise after a few days in which I was in a crummy, despairing, yet un-self-aware mood. The whole thing is taking me back to the days of childhood, when my time was not my own and when I was in constant trouble for waiting until the last minute, requiring my parents to run out to the store at the last minute for school or personal supplies, which they very much resented. I can't say I blame them, but in adulthood I have kind of gotten used to my way of doing things, which means if I run out of dog food I can go out in the evening after work and get some. And I don't mind that it's at the last minute. The world has become more accommodating to me as well, what with stores being open all the time and everything. But this week running out of dog food was problematic. Would I ask my neighbor to stop somewhere on the way home, even though I've been trying as hard as I can to minimize my impact on her driving habits? Would I take a chance that I could drive to the store and not get caught? I spent WAY too much time this week thinking about dog food, and if that sounds dumb, try living it. My life felt full of petty concerns that I could do nothing about. In the end my friend solved the problem by suggesting I pick up some food on the Corner during lunch time, which is what I did.

Decisiveness has eluded me and I think it's largely been due to the lack of autonomy I've felt. With fewer options open to me, I flailed about thinking obsessively of the few crummy options I could imagine. I have a feeling that, when the license arrives, I will feel the world open to me in a really lovely way. Maybe I'll never take having a license for granted again, but that's doubtful. It's just not the human way. But for a few days, I'm sure, I'll be happy just thinking that I have my license, and with it, my freedom.

UPDATE: My new license arrived in today's mail, finally -- let's just say a watched mailbox never spontaneously generates mail -- and I am free again!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Photo day wtf do I know

What say I just post pix when I feel like it and write when I feel like it without imposing all sorts of false order on my blog which has its own inherent order anyway?

Here's one from our snow day a couple of weeks ago:

These interesting seed pods are still hanging on a tree near the hospital:

One of my favorite subjects, hanging upside down outside my old office window:

Imagine hanging upside down to enjoy a tasty little treat!

Certain girls

Just finished Jennifer Weiner's most recent book, Certain Girls. It took a very serious turn toward the end, which I did not expect and which kind of threw me into a turmoil of grief and regret. I suppose it's good to be surprised by a book in that way, and I suppose I shouldn't spoil the book for people who might want to read it. It's an interesting mother/daughter story, with each voice alternating chapters -- a technique that rarely works, in my opinion, but which worked for me in this book because I found both voices and story lines equally compelling.

Maybe it's a backhanded compliment, but this book made me wonder why I don't write a book or books about my own, thinly veiled but fictionalized life. I feel like, even after all these years, I still don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, or if I'm "supposed" to be doing anything at all. Does it seem likely that I will sit down and write a novel at the age of 50? Should I not allow age to have anything to do with it? Should I be working on my freelance editing business rather than daydreaming about writing? Should I just write and work and freelance and shut up about it? Should I stop asking myself all these questions? Or should I ask them, but keep them to myself?

I've had another unproductive day looking for my birth certificate. Maybe it wasn't all that unproductive, even though my goal wasn't achieved: I did throw out an entire trash bag of worthless paper and shred even more than that. So some organizing did occur.

Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can drive to work and back without getting stopped by the cops for not having a valid license. It feels insane to be worrying about this.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

VFOB Funtimes

The good people of the Virginia Festival of the Book have invited me once again to blog for the festival. I love the bookfest and I feel lucky to be involved. This year I'll be covering a few health/mind/body sessions. I'll be reading the books and going to the sessions and blogging about them. I'll keep you posted as I begin my reading, it is to be hoped, next week.

I need to rant

I need to rant about something that is in large part my own fault. My driver's license expired on my birthday and SINCE I HAD MAJOR SURGERY THAT DAY it kind of slipped my mind, until I was reminded by a supercilious police officer yesterday, on my way home from the longest week of my life in which I was exhausted and just living for the weekend. Don't delay me on a Friday night, man. I fully admit that this is my fault, I never should have let it happen, but could we also agree that it is a technicality, this $32 license fee, and that I am the same driver today that I would have been had I renewed my license on time? And can we furthermore agree that I am the same US citizen that I have always been? Because they would not renew my license at the DMV without my birth certificate, which of course I have shown them several times before now but which I couldn't find this morning.

Ironically, I was then able to renew my license online without proving who I am. I didn't even need a PIN number! And I didn't need to prove my legal right to existence or whatever they call it at the DMV. Unfortunately now I have to wait for them to mail my license to me.

I'm just frustrated with the system. I'm sure the system's frustrated with me as well. It just wasn't a very good day.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Suppose that... think you made a pretty big mistake. Or really, you don't know whether it's a mistake but it seems like it might be one because you suddenly discover you're not as talented at something as you thought you were and your good feeling about your skill turned out to be mostly bravado. Or maybe not *mostly* bravado, maybe just some of it is bravado. Anyway, your choice is between not relying on this skill and realizing that you're not as good as you thought you were, or actually taking steps to improve the skill so that you (possibly) become as good as you thought you were. How do you decide? And yes, I'm being intentionally vague.

In other news, I am achy as all get-out and feeling unmotivated. But I'm making myself write anyway.

I wish I could live my life without regret.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I was sitting in my enormous rocking chair, reading Kavalier and Clay, finally after all these years because I bought it -- I was unable to check it out of the library for what seemed like decades -- when I started to think about my job situation and how it's not going so well and how I'll probably be doing something else pretty soon. This made me think of an editorial job I had wanted very much but didn't get and that made me think of writing. And that, for reasons which remain shrouded in my checkered past, reminded me of gin and tonics. I don't have any gin though, or tonic for that matter, so I am now sitting here typing with a Malibu rum and Fresca, a drink of my own invention and don't laugh until you've tried it. And no, I'm not using the drink to type with -- you know what I mean!

I thought about successful bloggers I know who write every single day and it occurred to me that I could write every single day if I gave myself time and space to do it. And I remembered that I was always a good writer in school, lo these many years ago, but that I decided I didn't like writing. And yet I keep a blog for fun. And I love email. I just don't like being forced to write things, and indeed there's a writing task on my work desk that is currently kicking my ass.

Which is all just to say, maybe I should be writing more.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This just in

Let's file this under "things I've always suspected":
The toxin in Botox products may spread to distant parts of the body, with potentially fatal consequences, Health Canada said Tuesday in announcing new labelling information for the drugs.
--via Feministing

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weird news o' the day

Hold out your hand. If you are a woman whose index finger is shorter than your ring finger – even by just a few millimeters – you may be more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study. --Arthritis Today
Seriously? But of course my index fingers are shorter than my ring fingers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Not sharing

I've always been bad at sharing. I'm known for it in my family. Monday evenings we would go to the Julia L. Butterfield Memorial Library and afterward we would get a quarter to spend on candy at the Julia L.Butterfield pharmacy. Do not ask me who Julia B. was; I should know, but I don't. Back in the car, my brothers and I would be munching on our candy when something like this would transpire:

Mikey (spontaneously): Dad, would you like some of my candy?
Dad: No, thank you.
Chris: Dad, would you like some of *my* candy?
Dad: No, thank you.
[Loooong pause]
Me: Dad, you don't want any of my candy, do you....?
Dad: Yes, thank you, I'll have a piece.

Usually he wound up not taking any of my candy, but you can see why I got teased a lot. By the time grad school rolled around, I was refusing to share popcorn in movie theaters. I had to have my own.

This all came up as I was considering updating my blog and realized that I didn't want to share. Maybe some other time.