Is That All There Is? No, Here’s More

Oh, we have worn out Netflix, seen reruns of Gray’s Anatomy down to the last smashed leg, learned every movie on Amazon Prime and found ourselves watching old Doris Day movies until we began to turn blond and smiley. But there is more at-home sheltering to do, if not this spring, maybe this fall and winter. Anyhow, so sayeth the virus experts.

So are you frozen  to one viewing spot, a permanent dent in the couch, one where generations to come will say: And that is where an ancestor endured the Great Pandemic of 2020? But truly, is this kind of couch muffin entertainment all there is? Netflix, Amazon Prime and popcorn?

Well,  you know there is more, but where to find it?  Here are some choices beyond the usual TV series and movies, choices where you can deepen and refresh  your brain with new ideas, images and pleasures.

For all round results, no matter what your interests are, move on over to http://www.youtube.com 

If you are uptight…who is not?…put relaxing music into the YouTube search box at the top of the page. The choices are amazing and provide hours of soft music, nature sounds, music to sleep by, even chants with nice visuals…whatever works.

And whatever your interest is, you can find a video about it on YouTube. Bridge, birdwatching, vegetarian cooking, heart health, watercolors, pet turtles, closet organization, even animal scat…which is how I found out there was a bear in the yard at our last house.

Plus some of these videos will get you off the couch. Even if you are 90 and a bit frail around the edges, there will be a YouTube exercise video that can get the body…the one you used to acknowledge as yours…moving. If you have trouble standing…feet, knees, ankles and hips on the fritz…search chair exercises for seniors. That will get you into a section that also offers yoga for seniors and pilates standing up…that’s in case you have trouble getting up and down from the floor, an occupational hazard of age.

If you want exercise for your brain, search on YouTube for TED.  TED offers short talks that are worth while…their motto is Ideas Worth Spreading…and right now they are focusing on ideas worth spreading in a time of pandemic. You can also go straight to www.ted.com. Your brains and possibly antique opinions will thank you.

If you’ve ever loved a flower, you can’t leave YouTube without doing some gardening. My love of the moment is Monty Don, the BBC hunk who, despite his good looks and talent as a TV presenter,  actually knows more about gardening than any expert I know. But he is not rigid in his rules. He says not to worry too much about pruning roses “the right way”. This is music to the ears of a wayward chopper like me.

Monty Don has done many series over the years. Seniors living in tight quarters might like the series, Big Ideas Small Spaces. I wore that one out and am now into his series, Gardener’s World. Big caveat: watching will mesmerize  people into spending big bucks at the local gardening center.

So love flowers this week. Maybe get outside, away from tired TV shows and CNN and do a little gardening, a little flower worship. I already spent a half hour today staring at the rambling roses in my patio. My Native American name should be: Staring At Roses.

Better than Staring at Headlines.

Moms in Lockdown…on Earth or in Heaven

Ok, this is not like any other Mother’s Day since you first gave birth several centuries ago. That change might have some advantage. There are no restaurant brunches where the service is bad, the eggs cold and the prices hiked. There is no breakfast in bed for us sheltered seniors….a meal where the crumbs in the night remind one of the burnt toast in the morning.

Some of those child-made meals were high on good will, but low on skill. At five years of age, with nobody in the house but mom and me and with nothing much in the house because of war rationing, I served my mom a meal of lettuce leaves decorated with Necco Wafers. I looked upon the plate and thought it was good. What my mom thought was not recorded.

Then there are the thoughts that always come this day about our dear departed moms. How to honor them? Cranky Pants and I found a way after I read that some ancient Greeks used to set a place for one of the Olympus gods even though they knew Zeus or Hera  would not show up. So we set a place at the table for his mom and mine. After toasting them, we spend the meal trading stories about our mothers. It’s something you can do today to honor your own. And tell your kids you have not lost it, but found a new way to honor your mom. It’s Greek. It’s classic. Just like you.

So today, your kids, if your area is still in lockdown, will not show up. The flowers might not make it to the front door. But there may come an invitation to Zoom, Skype, Face Time or phone. Whatever works. You can enjoy the love in whatever form it arrives. And you can set that place at your table for absent mom. Is it possible to imagine a pleasant conversation where you re-live the best moments of her momhood? After a glass of champagne, yes. And ask forgiveness for some of the worst things you ever did as a child.

Mom, I have to talk to you about those Necco wafers.

Three Things Everybody Needs

Nineteen. What did you need at that age? Depends on gender. Male: A fake ID, wheels and a condom in your wallet. Female: A fake ID, lipstick, comb. Forward 50 years. Age 79. What do you need? A blood pressure monitor, a thermometer and a oximeter, a little fingertip device that measures your oxygen, your hot air, though friends can also tell you about that. I’d add in that all of us at the dewy dawn of old age need night lights,  so we do not stumble and tumble on the way to the small room in the middle of the night. (The older one gets, the more frequent trips. Maybe celebrate by getting two night lights. I know. I am a wild, wild woman.)

Clearly, I am lying about the number three as there is still another thing we older people need and that is sleep, right now. What I am hearing from my peers is that people are having constant trouble sleeping. Side effect of Covid news: insomnia.

I’m pretty sure you’ve read all the remedies: Stay away from late day caffeine,  get off the computer, take a relaxing bath, keep your room quiet and yes, no TV in the bedroom. Ha. Whoever writes these is not on my planet.

I know people who cannot sleep without their TV on. It lulls and comforts them. James Garner in the room cheers one off to dreamland. So yes, TV if it suits you. But no to chocolate. If you don’t want the caffeine in chocolate to disturb, eat it early in the day. Breakfast would be really safe. And many older people can’t get in and out of their tubs and it takes too long anyhow. Take a shower. Put on those sleepy time sweats. Watch something incredibly old fashioned on your bed iPad. No violence. Bosch will keep you awake and incidentally raise your BP. Mine went up to 170 over trouble after the last murder. So try the 90 reruns of the series All Creatures Great and Small about a veterinarian in Yorkshire in the 1940’s. It’s relaxing to watch cows get their teats fixed by our hero.

(Masterpiece Theater is now shooting a new version of All Creatures for PBS.)

Also know that there are many relaxing music videos on YouTube. Do not let the presence of another human in the bed deter you from watching old shows on your iPad or listening to music videos. Earphones solve the problem. And then there is bedtime Kindle reading. Last night, thanks to author Robert Harris,  I was present at the murder of Cicero and Cranky Pants slept right through it.

Which gets me to the midnight snatching of the covers. Shivering wakes. If you sleep with someone else, it is going to happen as he or she rolls over and hogs the covers. We here in Shelter Prison have finally solved it: Bought a quilt on Overstock that was so humongous that no rollover could snatch the covers from anyone. Moral: Go big or go freeze.

You probably have your own idea about what a person absolutely should have these days at this age. Please write it in the public comment section below. What keeps me humble is that the comment section after a column is often better than the column.

Go for it and get some sleep.

 

New Info About Covid You Need to Know Now

This is a first. I have been writing columns for many years, syndicated by King Features and appearing weekly in the Mercury News, but never have I substituted someone else’s column for my own. This piece below by E.R. physician Richard Levitan appeared this afternoon on the front page of the New York Times. It will tell you about early oxygen deprivation as a silent symptom of Covid. With Covid, people can be very low on oxygen and not know it and thus do not seek treatment.

This column on silent hypoxia or oxygen deprivation may get you on Amazon to buy a simple fingertip oximeter, a painless little device to measure your blood oxygen. Just looked online: Prices are rising on oximeters and some deliveries are not until early May. I bought one years ago for $20. Some are now in the $30’s and up to the $60’s.

But let Dr. Levitan tell you about it below and also consider subscribing to the New York Times. They deserve our support for bringing information like this.

 

The Infection That’s Silently Killing Coronavirus Patients

This is what I learned during 10 days of treating Covid pneumonia at Bellevue Hospital.

By 

Dr. Levitan is an emergency doctor.

I have been practicing emergency medicine for 30 years. In 1994 I invented an imaging system for teaching intubation, the procedure of inserting breathing tubes. This led me to perform research into this procedure, and subsequently teach airway procedure courses to physicians worldwide for the last two decades.

So at the end of March, as a crush of Covid-19 patients began overwhelming hospitals in New York City, I volunteered to spend 10 days at Bellevue, helping at the hospital where I trained. Over those days, I realized that we are not detecting the deadly pneumonia the virus causes early enough and that we could be doing more to keep patients off ventilators — and alive.

On the long drive to New York from my home in New Hampshire, I called my friend Nick Caputo, an emergency physician in the Bronx, who was already in the thick of it. I wanted to know what I was facing, how to stay safe and about his insights into airway management with this disease. “Rich,” he said, “it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

He was right. Pneumonia caused by the coronavirus has had a stunning impact on the city’s hospital system. Normally an E.R. has a mix of patients with conditions ranging from the serious, such as heart attacks, strokes and traumatic injuries, to the nonlife-threatening, such as minor lacerations, intoxication, orthopedic injuries and migraine headaches.

During my recent time at Bellevue, though, almost all the E.R. patients had Covid pneumonia. Within the first hour of my first shift I inserted breathing tubes into two patients.

Even patients without respiratory complaints had Covid pneumonia. The patient stabbed in the shoulder, whom we X-rayed because we worried he had a collapsed lung, actually had Covid pneumonia. In patients on whom we did CT scans because they were injured in falls, we coincidentally found Covid pneumonia. Elderly patients who had passed out for unknown reasons and a number of diabetic patients were found to have it.

And here is what really surprised us: These patients did not report any sensation of breathing problems, even though their chest X-rays showed diffuse pneumonia and their oxygen was below normal. How could this be?

We are just beginning to recognize that Covid pneumonia initially causes a form of oxygen deprivation we call “silent hypoxia” — “silent” because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs in which the air sacs fill with fluid or pus. Normally, patients develop chest discomfort, pain with breathing and other breathing problems. But when Covid pneumonia first strikes, patients don’t feel short of breath, even as their oxygen levels fall. And by the time they do, they have alarmingly low oxygen levels and moderate-to-severe pneumonia (as seen on chest X-rays). Normal oxygen saturation for most persons at sea level is 94 percent to 100 percent; Covid pneumonia patients I saw had oxygen saturations as low as 50 percent.

To my amazement, most patients I saw said they had been sick for a week or so with fever, cough, upset stomach and fatigue, but they only became short of breath the day they came to the hospital. Their pneumonia had clearly been going on for days, but by the time they felt they had to go to the hospital, they were often already in critical condition.

In emergency departments we insert breathing tubes in critically ill patients for a variety of reasons. In my 30 years of practice, however, most patients requiring emergency intubation are in shock, have altered mental status or are grunting to breathe. Patients requiring intubation because of acute hypoxia are often unconscious or using every muscle they can to take a breath. They are in extreme duress. Covid pneumonia cases are very different.

A vast majority of Covid pneumonia patients I met had remarkably low oxygen saturations at triage — seemingly incompatible with life — but they were using their cellphones as we put them on monitors. Although breathing fast, they had relatively minimal apparent distress, despite dangerously low oxygen levels and terrible pneumonia on chest X-rays.

We are only just beginning to understand why this is so. The coronavirus attacks lung cells that make surfactant. This substance helps keep the air sacs in the lungs stay open between breaths and is critical to normal lung function. As the inflammation from Covid pneumonia starts, it causes the air sacs to collapse, and oxygen levels fall. Yet the lungs initially remain “compliant,” not yet stiff or heavy with fluid. This means patients can still expel carbon dioxide — and without a buildup of carbon dioxide, patients do not feel short of breath.

Patients compensate for the low oxygen in their blood by breathing faster and deeper — and this happens without their realizing it. This silent hypoxia, and the patient’s physiological response to it, causes even more inflammation and more air sacs to collapse, and the pneumonia worsens until their oxygen levels plummet. In effect, the patient is injuring their own lungs by breathing harder and harder. Twenty percent of Covid pneumonia patients then go on to a second and deadlier phase of lung injury. Fluid builds up and the lungs become stiff, carbon dioxide rises, and patients develop acute respiratory failure.

By the time patients have noticeable trouble breathing and present to the hospital with dangerously low oxygen levels, many will ultimately require a ventilator.

Silent hypoxia progressing rapidly to respiratory failure explains cases of Covid-19 patients dying suddenly after not feeling short of breath. (It appears that most Covid-19 patients experience relatively mild symptoms and get over the illness in a week or two without treatment.)

A major reason this pandemic is straining our health system is the alarming severity of lung injury patients have when they arrive in emergency rooms. Covid-19 overwhelmingly kills through the lungs. And because so many patients are not going to the hospital until their pneumonia is already well advanced, many wind up on ventilators, causing shortages of the machines. And once on ventilators, many die.

Avoiding the use of a ventilator is a huge win for both patient and the health care system. The resources needed for patients on ventilators are staggering. Vented patients require multiple sedatives so that they don’t buck the vent or accidentally remove their breathing tubes; they need intravenous and arterial lines, IV medicines and IV pumps. In addition to a tube in the trachea, they have tubes in their stomach and bladder. Teams of people are required to move each patient, turning them on their stomach and then their back, twice a day to improve lung function.

There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.

Pulse oximetry is no more complicated than using a thermometer. These small devices turn on with one button and are placed on a fingertip. In a few seconds, two numbers are displayed: oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Pulse oximeters are extremely reliable in detecting oxygenation problems and elevated heart rates.

Pulse oximeters helped save the lives of two emergency physicians I know, alerting them early on to the need for treatment. When they noticed their oxygen levels declining, both went to the hospital and recovered (though one waited longer and required more treatment). Detection of hypoxia, early treatment and close monitoring apparently also worked for Boris Johnson, the British prime minister.

Widespread pulse oximetry screening for Covid pneumonia — whether people check themselves on home devices or go to clinics or doctors’ offices — could provide an early warning system for the kinds of breathing problems associated with Covid pneumonia.

People using the devices at home would want to consult with their doctors to reduce the number of people who come to the E.R. unnecessarily because they misinterpret their device. There also may be some patients who have unrecognized chronic lung problems and have borderline or slightly low oxygen saturations unrelated to Covid-19.

All patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus should have pulse oximetry monitoring for two weeks, the period during which Covid pneumonia typically develops. All persons with cough, fatigue and fevers should also have pulse oximeter monitoring even if they have not had virus testing, or even if their swab test was negative, because those tests are only about 70 percent accurate. A vast majority of Americans who have been exposed to the virus don’t know it.

 

There are other things we can do as well to avoid immediately resorting to intubation and a ventilator. Patient positioning maneuvers (having patients lie on their stomach and sides) opens up the lower and posterior lungs most affected in Covid pneumonia. Oxygenation and positioning helped patients breathe easier and seemed to prevent progression of the disease in many cases. In a preliminary study by Dr. Caputo, this strategy helped keep three out of four patients with advanced Covid pneumonia from needing a ventilator in the first 24 hours.

To date, Covid-19 has killed more than 40,600 people nationwide — more than 10,000 in New York State alone. Oximeters are not 100 percent accurate, and they are not a panacea. There will be deaths and bad outcomes that are not preventable. We don’t fully understand why certain patients get so sick, or why some go on to develop multi-organ failure. Many elderly people, already weak with chronic illness, and those with underlying lung disease do very poorly with Covid pneumonia, despite aggressive treatment.

But we can do better. Right now, many emergency rooms are either being crushed by this one disease or waiting for it to hit. We must direct resources to identifying and treating the initial phase of Covid pneumonia earlier by screening for silent hypoxia.

It’s time to get ahead of this virus instead of chasing it.

Richard Levitan, an emergency physician in Littleton, N.H., is president of Airway Cam Technologies, a company that teaches courses in intubation and airway management.

Why Revive a Sleeping Blog?

Dearest Readers,

You have been abandoned the last two years as life intruded on my writing. For that, I am sorry. This blog and its weekly columns ran about 8 years before being distracted by moving back to Carmel from the Sierra Foothills,  by the kidney cancer of Cranky Pants and the larynx cancer of me.

The thing about cancer is this: it keeps you busy and keeps you driving. We drove the Honda so many times to doctors and scanning centers,  Cranky Pants,  whose daily name is Mac, called it The MelMac Cancer Bus.

The good news is…they got it all. I am getting my voice back and CP is recovering slowly from a surgery that involved a five-armed robot named Da Vinci. If you ever meet this creature, you will be lucky as the delicacy of this robot, controlled by highly trained surgeons, can work miracles not possible with ordinary surgical cutting.

So where to go from here? Back to human, factual, funny writing about aging, about life between 65 and 100. No robots involved. Just heart and brains. I figure, during our hermit and Covided lives, we need a little distraction, acknowledgement of what’s going on that is not covered by the discouraging media.

So What’s Happening to You?

What do you miss most is what I want to know. Your job is probably high on the list if you are unemployed,  but what about the little things that none of us are supposed to mention or complain about…not in such a serious time. I do know  what you are not missing is toilet paper as I imagine most of you  have a Tower of Paper hidden somewhere in the house.

Me, I missed flowers on the coffee table. The pre-quarantine ones were long gone. The bright center of the living room was missing. But who would be silly enough to go to the grocery store, not just for eggs and milk, but for flowers? Me. I donned my robber mask, my gloves and my mental Super Woman cape , waded into market battle and got me some flowers. Alstroemeria is what to buy during a pandemic because it lasts long enough for you to watch several years of televised episodes of favorite shows on Netflix. It also makes a nice background for your Zoom calls.

 

Older people have to be careful about these video calls from the kids, as the kids, having read that geezers are prime target for a virus, are checking you out as they talk. Do you look sick? Are you coughing? Is your house neglected? I even put lipstick on for a Zoom cameo as I don’t want them worrying about me…pale and wan…an aged hermit in her den.

And about the hermit part… Have you discovered your Inner Hermit, the one that has been waiting to come out for 60, 70 or 80 years?   Mine is out and soaking up the quiet, loving the empty calendar and just sitting around doing nothing. I should dress like a monk to express this newly emerged self, but it would scare Cranky Pants, so I put on the pink sweatshirt he had made for me after I got a clean pathology report. On the front it says in block letters: All Final Margins Are Clear.

So that’s my story… lived to see another day, both of us. Lived to begin writing to you again. And  you can leave your story in the comments below, which are public…just so you know. Other readers can be inspired by the utterly useless and embarrassing things you miss while trapped at home.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”.

Winnie the Pooh

When retirement is a pain in the posterior…

Though retirement is stereotyped as a geezer Garden of Eden furnished with recliners and a flat screen TV, it can be tough. You’d never know it, though, from the ads. You’ve seen them—beautiful Botoxed models with silver hair, riding bikes on a country lane or sitting in seaside bath tubs waiting for the moment to be right.

In reality, retirement is no chocolate truffle. It’s a mixed bag. Some people love it, some hate it and some just struggle, trying to understand who they are besides unemployed and what they should do now since they are finally in charge.

Sounds good—being in charge of your life, but if you’ve invested total energy in a job now gone and in a family now departed, facing the future is scary. What will you do with yourself? Who will you become?  The silly old person of the stereotypes? A super senior who skydives and makes the news? A grandpa who babysits and loves it because he missed out on his own kids’ childhoods? (Too busy earning a living.)

Maybe a grandma who starts a new business?  Or someone who never retires—who works as a consultant or at a part-time job to make money or to feel useful? (The biggest poverty of the later years may be the lack, not of money, but of meaning.)

How to get a grip

First, go easy on yourself. You don’t have to get the new you in place tomorrow. A good first thing to do: practice some personal archeology. That means digging out the interests you used to have. Did you always want to raise orchids, sing in a choir, be an artist, take photos like Ansel, help abused animals?

You may reply it’s too late for all that and I will reply it’s only too late if you don’t start now. Actually, that’s the title of a book by Barbara Sher—It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How To Create Your Second Life At Any Age. Sher is a genius at getting people off the dime, out of their fear freezes and into new lives that fit. Certainly her books helped me go back to school in my sixties and get an MA in Gerontology, the study of older people. So any Sher book on Amazon would be number two on my get-going list.

Third: Find a retirement buddy, someone who struggles with the same issues. This could be your mate, a former co-worker or a neighbor. It helps to know you are not alone. Exchanging ideas may result in a new perspective on retirement issues. Sometimes others can see you better than you can and might share what things they think you could do and enjoy.

Fourth: Test out some ideas with classes. Take classes in your interests at community colleges or adult ed classes in your area. Also look online. I got my degree from USC totally online. If you don’t care about credit—you just want the subject matter—-take free online university courses.

A major wakeup call for the brain

Free online courses from major schools are a treasure chest of ideas and information and a good way to get your feet wet in any subject. For a list of high-quality courses, go to http://tinyurl.com/2xr7sd.

MIT excels at this, and not just in science, but In the humanities with a wide offering of music courses. Carnegie Mellon is a leader online with many science courses. Tufts has wide offerings and excels in nutrition and medicine, both human and veterinary. UC Berkeley is not to be outdone. I had to stop writing this column just to listen to a computer class. All the links to these universities are at the website above.

Fifth: Don’t wait for the perfect thing to magically come your way. It takes effort and bravery to go down unknown paths. To his credit, Cranky Pants ventured forth to fall in a river after a fish, to suffer through golf lessons in the heat of an LA summer and to spin out on a race track going over 100 mph. He decided who he was not: a fisherman, Tiger Woods or Sterling Moss. He found civil grand jury work instead—interesting and done on cool dry land at zero mph.

So, again, we salute him and others who get out there in retirement as test pilots of their own lives. Fly on.

Mel Walsh is a columnist, blogger, gerontologist and author of HOT GRANNY, Chronicle Books. She lives in Carmel CA with Cranky Pants.

Turkey Soup: The Remains of the Day

What differentiates us from the younger generation—besides not smoking our house plants?

I say it’s turkey soup—knowing how to make it, eat it and value it enough to rescue the carcass from a hostess’ intent to throw it in the garbage. To cooks of a certain age, turkey bits and bones are poultry gold. The day after Thanksgiving, I drove home with my daughter’s turkey carcass in the back seat.

Turkey soup is chicken soup with muscle and worth every minute it takes to make, which is actually about ten minutes to start and another five at the end to strain it and get it ready for the refrigerator. The cooktop does the rest, simmering the infant soup into adult shape in about two hours.

By JaseMan

But let me begin at the beginning, which is after Thanksgiving when most of the meat has been harvested to make white bread sandwiches with lots of mayonnaise. The actual soup recipe is so simple it should not be called a recipe…maybe just heirloom instructions for getting the most out of a bird. Our grannies did this after Thanksgiving the way our grandchildren get up now at 3 AM to wade into Black Friday shopping—both post-turkey day traditions.

First, pull any remaining chunks of turkey off the bird to save for another meal. Then put the bones in your biggest pasta pot. You may have to break up the carcass to have it fit in the pot. Add a few carrots, celery stalks and chopped onions if you have them. (Stores sell the packaged beginnings for stuffing—chopped celery and onions—and those will do nicely instead.)

Fill the pot with water to cover the bird. Put on high heat until it just boils. Turn down immediately to just a simmer. (You need to make sure it doesn’t boil over.) Let it stew for 2 hours bubbling away slowly.

Then turn it off. Let cool. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the cooled soup into a large bowl. Throw the remains away. Refrigerate the soup.

When ready to use, skim the fat off the top of the bowl and take out as much cold soup as you want to warm up for a meal. (The “soup” may look like jelly at this stage and I love to eat it cold and jellied with plenty of lemon pepper grated on top, but that’s peculiar to me.)

You can eat this soup warmed up as just a plain broth or instead, boil various pastas in the broth—tortellini swimming in warm broth with sprinkles of cheese on top are good. Adding bits of veggies ups the nutrition, which is why I keep grated carrots and frozen spinach leaves on hand. Or you can make a turkey vegetable soup—adding turkey bits and veggies of choice and maybe a handful of couscous to rev up the bulk.

Turkey broth can be frozen, but I never have enough left to freeze.

By David Masters

And that’s how to get the most from your turkey. Now, if I could only figure out how to squeeze the most out of each day, boil the time down to one delicious essence.

A Geezer’s Turkey Day- A Little Salt, Lots of Sweet

Let us give thanks for…

…The fact that the CD rates in our retirement funds have not yet gone below zero. When interest rates go to zero, we may owe the bank money for the honor of their holding it. So what shall we do with our remaining assets to make sure we won’t end up having Thanksgiving 2020 in a church basement?

I had relatives who, during World War II, buried their money in Mason jars in the backyard. When they dug it up after the war, it was full of mold and they had to hang it out to dry. Moral of the story: no matter what you do with your retirement money, you will be hung out to dry.

However, cynicism is like salt—just a touch is enough. Too much is bad for your mental health and we need all the mental health we can get. So let’s really really give thanks for….

Longevity and health—Yeah, yeah, our medical system is a mess,  but we are living much longer than people did 100 years ago, when the average age of death was the late 40’s. If decades of life aren’t a huge gift, I’ll eat a turkey neck.

Life. What a gift. Thank you.

And how about that warm, well-lighted place we live in? Not under a bridge, not in a tent in Haiti, not in a refugee camp anywhere, but in a warm house, insulated in more ways than one.

Home. What a gift. Thank you.

And then there are those around the table—that salty, nutty mix of family and friends who show up to eat in 20 minutes what it took 8 hours to prepare. Well, never mind. They are the ones who hold us up when we begin to sink, who let us know we are not wandering  alone on the planet, but part of the Family of Man.

Family and friends. What a gift. Thank you.

And then there is the Internet, which is how we stay in touch, especially on holidays. It’s so busy today, in fact, that I can’t upload all the great photos I found for this post. Again, never mind.

Communication over the river and through the blog to grandmother’s house. What a great thing. Thank you.

And last, thank you for reading this when your mind is really on what to put in the stuffing. Is this finally the year for oysters?

Hint: Probably not.

Bad Moods: Changing into something more comfortable

Moods come in all colors—black, grey and blue for starters. Am I the only one seeing more blue moods in the morning?

By D. Sharon Pruitt

Evidently not….

By Lainey Powell

Maybe it’s economics—the rates on retirees’ CDs are going so low, we’ll soon owe the banks money. Or maybe it’s being in a country where the politics are so partisan, it’s like living in the same house with a mom and dad who are always fighting and you can’t get out.

Whatever the cause, it’s no way to live and too many downer days have prompted me to review my favorite ways of slipping into something more comfortable in the way of moods.

Music…the most instant and effective mood changer I know. Put it on, leave it on, move to it, sing along. Listen in the car, in bed and secretly with a pair of earphones during boring lectures, waits in the doc’s office or on planes, trains, buses or walks. Jeremiah was and still is a bullfrog and to listen to Joy to the World will turn you into a rainbow rider. If it doesn’t, a pulse check is in order. Women can hide earphones under their hair and nobody has to know they are listening to iTunes.

By Laser Guided

Clothes….Clothes make the mood. I should know. I’m a writer who gets up, starts to write and am still in a bathrobe and bunny slippers at lunch time, wondering why I don’t feel more professional. But to tell the real secret of clothes, it’s socks. Socks can be mood changers. The reveal of a red ankle cheers others up too, just like the 19th century—to say nothing of the uplift of even wilder patterns.

By Nina Matthews

Animals…I borrow my animal uppers from neigbors right now—baby goats, donkeys, miniature horses and chickens. Dogs and cats are more usual and quite reliable as mood modifiers, but really, nothing can equal an anti-depressant as much as a good hen.

By Leoncillo Sabino

Perspective….We are lucky to live now, for space travel and Hubble images offer an unprecedented way to get comforting perspective—-visual and emotional. Google NASA’s picture of the day to see how tiny we humans are. Or just contemplate the image of the Earth from space. Others may get the creeps from knowing how insignificant humans are, but it cheers me up to know we are not the be-all and end-all, but just dinky dots on a very pleasant planet.

By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Relaxing after a hard day’s mood…If you don’t have trouble with alcohol and don’t take meds that can’t pair with booze, then one nice glass of wine at the end of the day might improve your mood. (Much more can ruin both health and mood.)

By Steve Jurvetson

Today, the old thing about never drinking alone is pretty much out the door when you have a population of older widows or single women who want to relax over a glass of wine. What are they going to do? Go out and bring in a passerby so they can have drinking buddies? No, I have news for the “never drink alone” people. Every older woman I know who lives alone and enjoys wine also drinks alone….either before dinner as she cooks or with her Trader Joe’s entree. We are not talking about women at risk, unless it’s the risk of relaxing.

Dancing…I do something I call Dopey Dancing, just moving around to music in a stupid way in the family room. Others ballroom dance, tap or line dance to get the exercise, another predictable mood elevator. Sometimes just watching other people dance can get the good vibes going as my friend Judith reminded me this morning, sending a short video of great dances from the movies.

So, if you want to shed a blue mood or improve a rosy one, click here on Judith’s prescription:

Botanical meds: What docs don’t know and how you can get the info yourself

Maybe you already suspected this, but docs think you don’t know much about herbal medicine. And, in a recent survey reported in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, they also admit they don’t know much about natural remedies either. They perceive botanical illiteracy on both sides and they are right. Most of us couldn’t tell a ginger root from a day lily bulb.

It’s not always been this way. People grew their own pharmaceuticals. Their pharmacy was called a garden and, in much of the world, botanicals are still the basis of medical treatment. And, though people don’t know it, much of our own “mainstream” medicine comes from the earth. Aspirin is derived from the willow tree and the early contraceptive pills came from the Mexican yam.

By Peter Guest

Luckily, in some first-word countries today—not the US— there are doctors who actually study botanical medicines in school and use them regularly in their practice. In Germany, botanical medicine is taught in medical schools and that knowledge is tested in the qualifying exams. Seventy percent of German doctors prescribe botanicals and these medicines are reimbursed by their public health insurance program.

Where to find information when you live in Botanical Dum-Dum Land

All Americans should be better informed about botanical meds. Some of these natural treatments work very well, without the expense and side effects of prescription drugs. The caution here is that there are sleazy products and sleazy people promoting all kinds of “natural” treatments, so the consumer has to weed out the the good from the bad.

Luckily, there’s at least one doctor in this country who has studied botanical treatments and is also up on the latest in higher tech medical advances. He is Dr. Andrew Weil, graduate of Harvard Medical School and a scholar of natural botanicals. He has a foot in both worlds and practices integrated medicine.

Dr. Weil is the reliable source of information about what to take for what condition–what plant or supplement helps with colds, infections, high blood pressure, arthritis and the many other ills that flesh is heir to. He tells what natural product to take, how to take it, the actual doses, what to watch for, when not to take it and what prescription drugs don’t mix well with the botanicals.

Find this treasury of information at http://www.drweil.com. On the home page, click on Supplements & Herbs. There’s your little home companion to basic botanical medicine and if your doc needs info about how an incoming cold can be warded off with garlic, that’s the spot.

Will you be believed? I don’t know and have given up trying to convert those who don’t want to know. As someone said, it is hard to convince anyone of a fact when his occupation depends on his not believing it. What I do know is that garlic wards off my incoming colds if I get to the garlic fast enough.

And yes, I still get kissed. And while I’m at it, Happy Wedding Anniversary to Cranky Pants.