Friday, February 13, 2009

Remember dial-up connections?

Dried green paintImage via Wikipedia

I am sorry I've been so quiet the last two days. I am up at my parent's place with my daughter. The only internet connection I have up here is an old-fashioned dial-up that is so slow it makes browsing almost as much fun as watching paint dry. So I am going to post just a short note to say that I have not forgotten about this blog nor the great friends I've been making here!

Perhaps I will be able to get to the tiny public library about two blocks away where they have a broadband connection. But weekends are a busy time for me.

Usually on Fridays I travel 2 hours from my home in NJ to my parent's retirement community in PA. I help my dad with my mom. But most importantly weekends are the days I get to spend with my daughter. I share joint custody with her mom, and I am happy to be able to spend as much time with her as I do. On Sunday evening its back to NJ so my daughter can get to bed on time and up for school the next morning. Often she reads or draws in the car, and we also listen to book tapes or audio dramas. No TV or video games in my automobile!

My 2 cats, Michael and Shen, make the trip with us every time. They have racked up thousands of turnpike miles and are fairly good sports about it. I don't even need to use pet carriers. They sleep most of the trip. Shen, the younger of the two barely moves from the spot he first settles into. Michael on the other hand almost always ends up switching between the front and back seat once or twice. And sometimes he rest on the rear dash and looks out the back window like a bobblehead cat.

I'll pop in if I can, but more than likely you won't hear much from me until Monday.

Love and kindess everyone. Pay it forward.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

To drink or not to drink coffee

Histopathogic image of senile plaques seen in ...Image via Wikipedia

You probably have already read about a recent study of Swedish and Finnish participants that purports to have found a correlation between coffee drinking and a reduced risk of late-life Alzheimer disease. Depending upon the amount of coffee consumed, the risk was reduced by as much as 65%. Wow! Go coffee... go coffee... go coffee.

Many folks in this corner of the blogosphere have understandably sworn off drinking coffee altogether because of the deleterious affects of caffeine. But the study did not call out caffeine as the beneficial agent per se. It was not designed to do so. That is left for further studies to determine. However, if the positive effect is found not to be caffeine-related, then one could assume that naturally decaffeinated coffee would have the same effect and become an option for some who currently abstain. Furthermore, once the efficacious substance is identified, it might also be found to exist in other foods as well, and at the very least could be separated or manufactured and consumed in an extracted form.

As for me, I am sitting here with my steaming hot cup of Java, and there are about 3 more cups left in the carafe that sits next to my SAD light. And I will probably wind up consuming my regular daily dose of between 3 to 5 cups, before I stop some time around 2:30pm. I have set this no-coffee deadline because 6 or 7 hours is, according to my psychiatrist, about the amount of time it takes for most people's bodies to fully metabolize caffeine. My goal is to largely have it out of my system by bedtime or else sleep disruption is likely to occur, in addition to a few nocturnal trips to the bathroom. Even if you do not find it difficult to fall asleep after consuming caffeine, it is almost certain that it is shortening the amount of time your brain spends in the very crucial REM sleep cycle.

But I digress, as usual. The coffee/Alzheimer's study received my attention because my 83 year old mother suffers from dementia. It started to become noticeable about 7 years ago. Though it is steadily progressing, she is still able to move around in her apartment with her walker, and still gets to and from the bathroom, but her short term memory is shot and there are other noticeable deficits. She requires a person to be with her at all times, though she tells us thats not necessary. Fortunately she has a very patient, loving and healthy husband. My dad just turned 84 in January and is a wonderful caretaker. If it were not for him my mother would have required placement in the health care unit quite some time ago.

I visit them almost every weekend, often with my daughter, who is learning how to be a good companion to her gramma. I believe it has been an excellent experience for her. She is learning the value and wisdom of the aged population. Often she pushes my mom in her wheelchair, and goes for walk to the in-house library, gift shop, or cafe. I always give her my cell phone in case there is a problem. There never has been.

I in turn cook the meals and frequently do some grocery shopping. And because I am there with my mom, my dad is freed up to go out and do something he enjoys for several hours. Fortunately, he has never really suffered from depression as have his wife and 5 children. But that's a story for another time.

I will be listening closely for more news on what it is in coffee that has kept so many of the Swedes and Finns from aquiring Alzheimer Disease. Let me know if you hear something too! Hopefully I won't have already forgotten about this post.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Not a good group meeting

Traditional Amish buggy, Lancaster County, Pen...Image via Wikipedia

I'm feeling pretty down tonight. I'm not really sure why. There are a bunch of things on my mind. And it wasn't a very good group meeting tonight. Sort of bizarre and chaotic.

This particular support group is held in the cafeteria of a local mental health hospital. And only 5 of us were from the outside this time. And the group from the hospital was more wild than usual. Whoever brought the group in didn't seem to give them a good orientation concerning the nature of the meeting. Its essentially based on the self-help principles of CBT.

I felt a bit intimidated by some in the group this time because unlike the three previous evenings I attended, these people had a rowdy contingent.

I had been sitting alone at a table, but I actually moved myself from the periphery to be in the midst of the the others. Someone else had to leave because he was being a jerk, and that freed up his handout packet. I had forgotten to bring my copy. So instead of grabbing his copy and returning to my original seat, I wanted to sit where he had been because I like to be "group minded". I isolate too much as it is.

The guy I moved next to had prison gang tattoos all over his arms. They are like flashing neon signs to fello gangbangers in prison and out on the streets. I know such tattoos have all sorts of interesting meanings, like who he's killed and how, stuff like that. But I of course was clueless. I grew up with Amish neighbors and a cow pasture in my back yard. I actually answered a couple of the questions he had during the meeting because he didn't know what was going on really. And I knew what it was like to be new there since it was my 4th meeting.

It was just a weird meeting. And I left feeling sort of negative and down because I had forced myself to get up and go and it wasn't what it was like previous nights.

The one positive thing is that I took a nap beforehand and when I awoke I contemplated not getting out of bed to go. But I did go. So that is at least a minor victory, right?

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What a strange person.

King Arthur and his knights of the round table, along with their servants, "ride" up to a castle. King Arthur's servant, Patsy, blows a horn.

An armour-clad face appears at the top of the rampart. It speaks in an outrageous French accent.

Soldier: 'Allo! 'Oo is it?
Arthur: It is I, King Arthur, and these are my knights of the Round Table. Whose castle is this?
Soldier: This is the castle of my master, Guy de Lombard.
Arthur: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail.
Soldier: Well, I'll ask 'im, but I don't think 'e'll be very keen-- 'e's already got one, you see?
Arthur: What?
Lancelot: He says they've already *got* one!
Arthur: (confused) Are you *sure* he's got one?
Soldier: Oh yes, it's ver' naahs. (to the other soldiers:) I told 'em we've already *got* one! (they snicker)
Arthur: (taken a bit off balance) Well... ah, um... Can we come up and have a look?
Soldier: Of course not! You are English types.
Arthur: Well, what are you then?
Soldier: (Indignant) Ah'm French! Why do you think I have this out-rrrageous accent, you silly king?!
Arthur: What are you doing in *England*?
Soldier: Mind your own business!
Arthur: If you will not show us the Grail, we shall take your castle by force!
Soldier: You don't frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottoms, son of a silly person! Ah blow my nose at you, so-called "Arthur Keeeng"! You and all your silly English Knnnnnnnn-ighuts!!!

(the soldier proceeds to bang on his helmet with his hands and stick out his tongue at the knights, making strange noises.)

Lancelot: What a strange person.
Arthur: (getting mad) Now look here, my good ma--
Soldier: Ah don' wanna talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food-trough wiper! Ah fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!
Galahad: Is there someone else up there we can talk to?
Soldier: No!! Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

My coffee mug is filled with steaming hot java and the rest is in the carafe sitting on the tray with my SAD light. One thing no one will convince me of, is to stop drinking coffee. Wonderful stuff. My liver likes it, my kidneys like it, my brain likes it. Every part of me likes it. So just stop right now if you are going to try to convince me to taper off caffeine. Ritalin yes, Wellbutrin probably, Paxil most likely. Caffeine no.

A Danish study this past month said that those who drink 4 to 5 cups of coffee have a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimers. (Figures it was a danish study since they go so well with coffee. Probably the danish companies funded the study, because if people start drinking more coffee obviously they are going to want a danish with each extra cup.) So since I'd rather not end up like my mom I will keep drinking my pot of java a day, thank you very much. Besides, I'd rather die of almost anything else than Alzheimers. My dads extremely healthy and a loving caretaker of my mom. I help out on most weekends. And so far she can still use her walker and the bathroom.

Anyway, what I was trying to do was to write about how its the little things in life now that bring me momentary pleasure. And before I digressed I was trying to paint a picture in words of my little setup that makes me feel snug as a bug in a rug and content for an hour or so each day.

So lets see, lets try again, I am sitting on an ugly beige couch, next to the arm on the right side, next to the SAD light which rests upon an oak TV tray my woodworker dad made for me. My all important coffee supply and various other doodads share the same tray. I am sitting Indian... I mean Native American style with my lap covered in a green mexican blanket. On my lap is my lapdesk and top of that is my laptop (a 9 year old Toshiba TECRA 8200 - I use my geek skills with pride to keep my decade old computers going forever, like the 1950s automobiles in Cuba.) Damn! I cannot stay focused no matter how hard I try... My cat is licking himself everywhere (because he can) and is snuggly pressed up against my left thigh.

Regarding my SAD light, I also have its high density ionizers activated so that the air circling my head smells fresh like after a summer thunderstorm. I've had this thing for a while, but like everything in my life that I should be doing (should is a bad word) I have never done it religiously. But lately I've been trying to keep it next to my couch where I spend 90 percent of my time.

So where was I... My coffee, my light... Oh yes, my laptop.
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Sitting intimately close to my SAD light

Its morning... no, nix that, its 12:15pm. It feels like its morning because I just got out of bed about 30 minutes ago. My sleep cycle has got me completely screwed, which is amazing because that hasn't happened in an embarrassingly long time, and I'm assuming never will again.

(Start of Digression...)
However, I have found that the thing I miss most is simply soul-intimacy with that other human being. To mingle physically with that other person is certainly exciting and fun... I think, I don't really remember... but even though I am a guy, my lengthy time of being alone has caused me to realize that what s~x (am I allowed to type that word here?) was really pointing at (for me, and I think for most people even if they think its just for recreation) is a much deeper place than physicality can ever take you. We want to be known, totally opened up to someone with our entire being, and still accepted unconditionally and loved, and know the other person is not going to run away in fright or disgust. Anyway, if I was forced to choose between physical intimacy (and romance, which I feel is highly overrated... its all about projecting your fantasies on some poor fool, which isn't fair and it sets you up for disappointment... like "You complete me" & "You had me at hello" which will always be the movie lines I've come to most hate - yuck!...) and the much deeper intimacy it seeks to express or find (whether or not it is admitted), I would take the broader more satisfying "love"... soulful intimacy... extreme friendship... love in the truest sense. I have found there is a broad central core of LOVE that has different expressions for different types of relationships, i.e. couples, parent-child, friends, etc. But the broader central essence of LOVE, I have found, at least for me, is the same stuff. My daughter has taught me more about unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, saying I'm sorry, than any other relationship. And what I have learned in that school of parenting I am able to use in how I interact with others.

Now I'm getting wordy and preachy...
(End of Digression...)

Oh hell, I'm just going to post this and make the rest part II or whatever. I've exhausted myself. I can't stick with the program today. Its not at all what I was going to write about, but I just keep branching. You should see the rest of what I have written this morning, that I am not posting right now. I'm all over the place. It would be fine if you were actually here sharing a cup of coffee with me (or tea... I've got decaf... or hot water... you name it). But its so hard to write from top to bottom of the page sometimes. Its confining.

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