Spared By Dorian, Buffeted by Dementia

Compare this photo and the following video I took today with the video I took two weeks ago here. The walkable beach here in Naples on the Florida Gulf coast is narrower, and most of the shells I saw as I walked along the water’s edge were broken. The wind was very strong and you can really hear it. I had brought my lunch to the beach and settled at a covered table where I could see the water. I had to hold onto my purse, sandwich and drink while I ate to keep anything from being blown away, not easy to do with two hands. We are about 125 miles from the Atlantic coast of Florida and much further from the hurricane itself, and have been getting some effects from the outer bands, but there’s no danger to life or property here as far as I’ve heard. The east coast has been hunkered down for days, and we were briefly. Unfortunately cognitive impairment prevents some from understanding here from there, or us from them, or safety from danger. I am so grateful for the people and organizations here who understand this and provide so much help and support.

When I saw videos of the devastation in the several of the Bahama islands after they were strafed by category five hurricane winds for over 48 hours, I could hardly take it in. The drone view was from a height that made much of the debris field unrecognizable, but it’s hard to imagine how many people can have survived. This devastation strikes me as being analogous to that being visited upon the brain suffering from progressive dementia. It’s hard to imagine anything surviving, and yet much does, at least for a while. And for any of this, and for all those who help us weather the storm, we are very grateful.

Reasons for Hope

A welcome respite

from hurricane news and our once feeble but increasingly robust preparations, such as they are, was this lovely story about crows.
https://www.thedodo.com/in-the-wild/crows-bring-gifts-to-kind-woman

Toggling between our tribal news channel and the Weather Channel, the level of anxiety in our household grows exponentially. We submitted our application weeks ago for our county’s Special Needs Shelter (they stress they are to be seen as a “shelter of last resort”), and I called to confirm with relief that we’re in their system and learned where to go, with Daisy, if they call to tell us to evacuate. We both qualify as special needs since I must sleep no further than six and a half feet from the electronic machine that reads my heart monitor every night, and our other challenges make qualifying a no-brainer. Our shelter will be set up in a high school gym, and I have our Go Bags packed for ourselves and our cat. Can you figure out whose is whose?

Publix was out of water when we got there today, so we went to CVS and found plenty. Now we have big two cases of bottled water in one car and one case in the other. Obviously I can’t drive both cars, so when/if we get the order to evacuate, we’ll stash one car in the garage, probably the smaller one, and take the other to the shelter. I’m trying to stay abreast of the items we’ve been told to have on hand. As of now we’ve got the aforementioned water, full tanks of gas, batteries, non-perishable foods, and now, a solar USB charger. Best Buy was sold out of the affordable models when I checked yesterday, so I found one on Amazon and, I kid you not, it came this afternoon! It was already charged and even has a fancy light that can flash the SOS code, strobe, and beam a steady light, dim or blinding. All for less than $50! Tucked that puppy in my Go Bag. It’s really quite spectacular.

Wishing you all a lovely Labor Day weekend. If we cook out on the grill in coming days, let’s hope it’s not because we had to use all the meat in the freezer. And please do send some positive vibes our way. Our Sunshine State could really use them!

Savoring the Joy as I find It

Sometimes a day is unstructured and we don’t know what to expect. I wondered what to do with myself for four hours today without any responsibilities or expectations. I dropped in on a support group, late, but still. Then I took myself out for lunch alone, a surprisingly authentic pastrami on rye. Next I parked by the beach and took a brief walk on the sand. As local residents, parking is always free for us. Here’s the video I took, which I sent to my granddaughter who just let us know she is engaged to be married. I am thrilled for her! He’s a Marine and she’ll be living closer to us soon. Then I went to my therapy office nearby and did some creative writing. The plot began to fall into place as my fingers flew across the keyboard. A character revealed the why and the how! When all was said and done, I resumed my busy life of caregiving, recharged and grateful.

Enjoy:

The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you, and to that in all living beings.

A Day to Remember

Today is Memorial Day, or as it was called in my youth, Decoration Day. It’s a day to remember our veterans, those injured or killed in the service of our country, and our dear departed loved ones. All over the United States people visit cemeteries and place flags, flowers and even fancy “grave blankets” on the resting places of the dead. My father and my husband served in the US Army. I’m very proud of them and grateful for their service. Somewhere in the albums we shipped south I have photos of them in uniform. Here’s one of my maternal grandfather who was a Navy officer and served in both WWI and WWII. He died before I was born, and although the family lore is pretty negative about him, I thank him for his service as well. As I once wrote in a poem,

I thank thee fathers past for all thy pain, Thou vital links in my eternal chain.

We live in Florida, thousand of miles from my father’s grave in the Garden of Valor in a cemetery in California and my mother’s in Maine. My in-laws are buried about 1,500 miles north in New York and New Jersey. We haven’t figured out where we want our mortal residue to rest. It doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

I just published a post in my mother’s art blog, and here’s a link for all who wish to see her striking work that blesses our home and those of many others today. Many are on display at the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in Sarasota. My cousin Mary owns and fills this amazing place with a fine collection of paintings, statuary and colorful crafts that must be seen to be appreciated.

Enjoy the day and remember that this is a great country that has weathered worse than what threatens us today. But climate change is real, and we all need to get serious about it or we won’t be leaving this land as good as we found it. Love to you all.

Revisiting the Why of What I Do

My Manhattan Office

How my New York office looked from where I sat for many years

Reposted from August 2016

[The panorama above of my Manhattan office shows so much of what has been important to me. The watercolor over the couch was painted by my mother, an accomplished artist, may she Rest in Peace. The stone Buddha head was a cherished gift that I gave a colleague when shlepping it home on the subway proved too daunting. The glowing shape near the far window is a Himalayan salt lamp. The green mid-century modern chair is the only furniture I brought with me to Florida where I now live and work. It sits in my garage awaiting refurbishing, its woven tape faded and badly snagged often and enthusiastically by the cat after I brought it home.]

In New York City where I practiced for over twenty years, it seemed as if everyone knew what psychotherapy is, even if they hadn’t ever experienced it personally. Occasionally I’d meet with an older patient whose primary physician or psychiatrist had referred them to me for treatment, and they’d say something like, “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do.” A discussion would follow, and soon we’d be “doing psychotherapy” every week. But many elderly people are psychotherapy-savvy, a case in point being a ninety year old woman in New York who had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis fifty years before she came to me to address a current issue.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So these days, I’m explaining psychotherapy a little more often, and helping shed a light on experiences that have baffled, frightened, confounded or annoyed my patients. I’m describing how certain medications treat depression and why they aren’t good for people with the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

photo of head bust print artwork

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I’m cataloging symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and helping patients gauge how much those symptoms interfere with functioning and their overall quality of life. Sometimes just asking a question about obsessions triggers access to a deeper emotional issue never before spoken to another. As I was psychodynamically trained, I enjoy helping a patient explore a dream for its value in clarifying issues, past and current. I take my role as therapist and guide along this most challenging journey very seriously.

architecture bright building city

Flatiron Building, Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

As we prepared to move out of New York, I considered retiring. For about five minutes. I got a late start on my career as a psychologist so there’s a practical, financial incentive to continue, but there’s an even more important reason I am still actively working as a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy: I love the work. I enjoy meeting new people and sitting down with them to see what we can do together to alleviate their distress, resolve their conflicts, arrive at healthier alternatives to their problematic habits and behaviors, and find greater and deeper meaning in their lives, both in terms of the past, the present, and into the future.

person holding compass in forest

Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

I find it to be a great blessing helping people traverse very intense points on their path, such as dating, marriage or divorce; pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth; seeking, losing, improving or getting new jobs; illness, accident, treatment, death and grief, and as the late death and dying pioneer Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross taught us, acceptance. Acceptance of what has been and of what is, even when we wish it were different. Acceptance of what we’ve done and who we are, and acceptance of our ability to learn and grow and change despite the past, even though it can be extremely challenging and a lot of hard work.

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I alway have ended these posts with the Sanskrit word namasté, which basically means, “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

And so it is.

Namasté,

 

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Under the Bodhi Tree and Serendipity

Good morning! My daily inbox treat from Tricycle magazine recently featured a promotion for a wonderful new children’s book called Under the Bodhi Tree, and this video of the book is narrated beautifully. The voice of Kriste Peoples is perfect for the text. The book gives a lyrical account of the awakening of Siddhartha Gautama.

Now that we’re more or less settled after the move, after just two weeks, I’m beginning to emerge from the state of intensity in which we’ve lived since June when we headed north to sell the house. It was a frenzy of decluttering, packing, making various arrangements and so forth. I even sold my Prius I had kept up there. The one big thing I forgot to do was have the satellite radio activated on my Florida car. It worked fine until Thursday when it shut down. Turns out there was a freebie period going on, and then it ended. So while we were parked in the Aldi lot before doing some food shopping, we called in and after a lengthy call got it reinstated.

We experienced an amazing confluence of kindness, generosity and serendipity over the last three and a half months. A friend and a cousin helped us empty the attic and sort the contents. We gave them art and lovely smaller things in gratitude. A neighbor came by to say goodbye and graciously took away the remaining contents of my refrigerator plus a wrought iron cupcake rack I was planning to leave behind. Despite a slow real estate market the wonderful realtor we chose did an amazing job and had us under contract in just over a week after the listing went live online. We sold some old jewelry and silver items we never used for just what the movers charged. We sent down 37 boxes of personal treasures and needs and a lot of original art. A main concern of mine was where I would put everything once it arrived. We sold the house fully furnished and equipped, so my lovely china closet stayed behind. My husband also needed a desk for his iMac, so we’d been visiting furniture and consignment stores this past week.

We found a stunning solid hardwood china cabinet at a consignment store. It had been sitting there for months so our lower offer was accepted, and we got it delivered yesterday. Now I have shelves awaiting my mother’s Blue Quail china and other much loved things. Right now it holds my butterfly tea set, some Fiesta pieces and a cast iron Dutch oven, just to fill the shelves for now. It’s 8 feet tall and beautifully made. It reminds me of an antique store window on the Rue Royale in the French Quarter.

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The heavy Murano Glass bowl on the top shelf was lovingly carried back from Italy by my mother in 1955 who held it on her lap on the plane. I have carried it everywhere I’ve lived since she died over 13 years ago. I stashed it in a big duffel bag well padded with clothing to bring it down to Florida two weeks ago. Spot the Buddha on the second shelf? I rescue any that I find and can afford (I once found one in an antique store in the Village that was very old and selling for $13,000. I didn’t take that one!) in thrift stores and antique places. This Buddha is a glass tealight candle holder.

Once we found this lovely piece, we redoubled our efforts to find the office furniture my husband needs. Everything we found was either too large for the space or two small for the iMac. We even found an office armoire of beautiful wood with all the bells and whistles, but it was very expensive and he didn’t love it. We looked online and mulled over many options. At last we found a number of suitable desks on Joss and Main (a Wayfair site) and chose a nice, simple one with a keyboard drawer that was inexpensive and looks easy to assemble. We’ll have it and the chair we chose by the end of the week. Easy peasy!

That’s it for now. It feels good to be blogging more regularly. Life changes, but there will always be interesting things to find and share.

Namasté

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Animals and Difficult Choices

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Wow! The circus animals depicted on the Animal Crackers box have been freed into their African habitat. How wonderful! I may have resumed eating some beef and chicken for reasons I will explain, but my love and concern for all beings remain very strong.

For about 10 years I have been a fervent, even strident, vegetarian, a large part of that time as a vegan. I eschewed silk, leather and honey. And then my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it turned our world up side down. And the Universe brought a number of people and articles into our awareness about a radical new treatment for AD. It’s called the ReCODE Protocol devised by UCLA neurologist Dale Bredesen, MD. We scoffed at first, but I did some research and also asked a clinician who treats AD if it was snake oil or just plain bullshit. She assured me it was legit, adding that a member of the medical staff had presented on it and said it was the real deal. The initial study included only 10 subjects but nine showed significant reversal of their cognitive decline after following the protocol. Dr. Bredesen has proposed a larger study and is awaiting approval by the UCLA institutional review board.

The ReCODE Protocol consists, in a nutshell, of a gluten-free diet that induces mild ketosis, fasting, and individually tailored supplements following extensive blood work and genetic testing, and medication. So I began preparing three meals a day for him following the protocol, and we had to find sources of grass fed beef and pastured chicken and eggs, and wild caught fish (except large fish such as tuna, shark, swordfish because of the mercury in their tissues). This ketogenic way of eating is important to reducing the environment in the body conducive to AD symptoms.

We found grass-fed ground beef at our local supermarket and I made a meatloaf. Pinterest has great ketogenic recipes and I found a winner. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed beef until this meatloaf was cooking. It was delicious. Then we went to a farm here in northeast Pennsylvania that sells grass-fed and grass-finished beef (some grassfed cattle are sent to standard feedlots to be fattened before slaughter) and bought a chuck roast and a brisket. When the chuck roast was cooking, the aroma was amazing, and it was fork tender and very tasty. I asked the farmer how they were raised and slaughtered, and he assured me both were humane. “They’re my babies,” he said. “I take them there myself. It’s done humanely. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

A local heath food store sells organic pastured chicken and organic, unpastured and uncured chicken sausages. I began making jerk chicken in the crockpot, another winner. I still eat vegetarian sausages because I like them. I serve his and mine with sauerkraut. Fermented foods are strongly encouraged, and I make mashed cauliflower with pastured butter and organic miso which make it creamy and tasty, and miso is fermented. We also make zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. I steam a head of organic cauliflower at least once a week, and I also make cauliflower home fries to serve him with his morning eggs. It’s a high fat diet, and we use avocados and olive oil dressings, and I cook with lots of avocado oil, coconut oil, and pastured ghee and butter. I prepare salmon patties using wild caught canned salmon mixed with Old Bay seasoning, chopped onion and green pepper, plus one egg, which makes four patties that he loves. One with veggies is usually enough, but sometimes he has two.

We found a doctor who was trained by Dr. Bredesen to treat my guy and she is helping us refine his plan according to the testing. He has lost a lot of weight, so she added brown rice, millet and quinoa to his diet. He is to eat a whole avocado daily. I was eventually too busy and stressed to keep preparing for two very divergent food plans, so I began eating meat again and maybe I was weak, but I’m at peace with it. I also have lost about 12 pounds after adding beef and chicken. Doing so has sped up my weight loss and moved me to within about 10 pounds of my goal.

So I’m so happy Nabisco changed the Animal Crackers box to reflect the reality that the circus has closed and the animals have been released to humane sanctuaries. I have gratitude for the animals who end up on our plates. I hope those who remain vegetarian and vegan will understand my decision to leave the fold. If not, be glad you don’t have to make the kinds of changes we have made in our lives to accommodate and hopefully reverse the cognitive decline of AD. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. The future is uncertain for all of us. But for us it is scary.

Namasté

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