May 28, 2016

In My 87 years, I've Seen Us Go from the Contagious Optimism of our "Greatest Generation" to the Mean-Spirited Anger of Today

I was born on May 26, 1929... 87 years ago. So I'm part of the generation between two well-known ones -- the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

Tom Brokaw assigned the description "Greatest Generation" to describe those people who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight World War II. It's often defined to include those born between 1901 and 1925, but the core of the GG generally includes people born between 1914 and 1924.

The Baby Boomers include people born during the post-war Baby Boom years of 1945 and 1964.

My generation is not as well known and doesn't really have a designated name. But I call it the "Lucky Generation," and I am an example.

May 25, 2016

Looks Like I'm Doing Three Things Right

I subscribe to several health newsletters, but finding something useful for me is hit or miss.

Every now and then I strike gold. That was the case last week when I received the June 2016 issue of the Cleveland Clinic's Men's Health Advisor. It included three articles I liked, especially because they recommended things I was already doing. Here's a brief recap of each. 

Brisk Exercise May Slow Cognitive Declines 
Older adults who engage in moderate-to-intense exercise may help delay age-related declines in thinking and memory, according to a study published online March 23 in Neurology. Researchers reviewed data on 876 people with no signs of cognitive problems who were questioned about their exercise habits and underwent multiple neuro-psychological evaluations.

Ninety percent of the study participants engaged in light exercise (walking or yoga) or no exercise. The remaining 10% reported moderate-to-high-intensity exercise such as running, aerobics, or calisthenics. 

When the study participants were re-tested five years later, those who reported low physical activity levels scored significantly lower than their more active counterparts on tests that measured word recall and speed of task completion. The difference in cognition was equal to about ten years of normal aging.

The take-away message: engaging in moderate-to-high-intensity exercise may help slow cognitive-related decline. The newsletter recommends working with your physician and/or exercise professional to develop an exercise plan tailored to your overall health status and capabilities. 

Mindfulness Therapies May Help Ease Low-Back Pain
People with chronic low-back pain may benefit from using mind-based therapy, according to research published in the March 22-29 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The study included 342 people aged 20-70 who had low-back pain for an average of about seven years.

All participants received usual medical care for eight weeks; 116 also underwent mindfulness-based stress reduction in a program of meditation and yoga; and 113 received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a specialized cognitive training to change pain-related thoughts and behaviors.

May 24, 2016

Family Fun on a Rainy Afternoon

"Jazz on a Rainy Afternoon" is one of my favorite CD albums, and it prompted the title for this post.

We’ve been having the worst May weather I can remember in my 60 years in Washington. This month's temperatures have averaged nine degrees below normal.

Unfortunately, that unpleasantness has coincided with my being hit by shingles, so I have not been a happy camper.

But this past Sunday was a delight, even though it poured down rain most of the day.

My granddaughter Emily – with her husband Jarrod, their two-year-old daughter Emarie and their second (and brand-new) daughter Emira -- drove from their Baltimore home to pay a visit. We had a great time together for a couple of hours. Emira is just a few weeks older than Nivah, the daughter of my housemates Bhawana and Nimesh.

Here’s Jarrod with Emarie and Emira:

May 21, 2016

Getting Together with an Elderly or Infirm Friend? Lunch Isn’t the Only Option.

Now that I'm starting to recover from two months of battling shingles, I scheduled my first lunch out with a friend yesterday. Appropriately, it was with Jack Golodner, whom I've known longer than any of my other friends. We met in the early 1950s as students in Cornell's industrial Labor Relations School.

We began with the usual “organ recital,” often the prelude to other conversation when friends in their 80s get together. Then we discussed problems with medical care generally, and issues with our own doctors in particular. We had a very nice time together.

But when I got home, I realized I had exhausted my limited energy supply for the day. I was wiped out. 

I certainly hope that my endurance improves as my recovery from shingles progresses. For now, a lunch date is pushing my limits.

Other Options for Getting Together
Last Sunday, my friend Puru called, said he was thinking about stopping by, and asked if I wanted to drive over to our neighborhood farmer's market with him. I wanted. We spent over an hour at the market, and I picked up a few things at the Safeway next door.

The outing gave us a good chance to chat, and brought some welcome additions to my pantry at home. It also took much less energy than going downtown for lunch.

Puru has also offered to stop by on his way home from work -- when the weather improves – to drive me over to Potomac Avenue. This level street just a few minutes from my house offers gorgeous views across the Potomac River… and a good opportunity for me to try out my new walker for some needed exercise.

May 19, 2016

A Setback, Computer Frustrations, and a Solution

On Wednesday, I had a serious setback. I felt on the verge of collapsing, and even wondered if I’d end up in Sibley Hospital’s emergency room again… a repeat of my trip there on March 5. Luckily, Bhawana – one of my housemates -- was home at the time, and again proved very helpful.

I decided this setback was the result of the frustrations I’d felt working on blog posts. As so often happens these days, I was struggling with the computer keyboard, hadn't taken my meds on time, and had spent way too much time sitting in my office chair.

I was almost thinking about giving up on the blog.  But I feel it’s important for me to keep this project going. The blog provides a motivating purpose for me, and in a way – after all these years of telling my story -- feels a little like part of my “legacy.” 

The critical issue is the amount of time I spend keyboarding. Dragon’s voice recognition software helps, but it makes almost as many mistakes as my own slow and unreliable typing. I end up spending hours on a post that someone else could have tapped on the keyboard in fifteen minutes. So I've come up with a remedy: this post is being typed into the computer by my friend and helper, Rikki. 

This idea – like so many -- came to me in the middle of the night, and I'm enthusiastic and hopeful  about it.

The problems I was having on Wednesday have largely disappeared. I've taken my blood pressure several times today, and the numbers are unusually low.

John Pepper and Chris Day – both of whom I mentioned in a post earlier this week about John’s “conscious walking” regimen as a way of managing Parkinson’s symptoms – emphasize  something that they both think is important and that I need to work on – maintaining balance in one’s life.

No question – when I spend too much time at the computer, especially with the frustrations of voice recognition software and my own slow and error-prone keyboarding, my life feels out of balance.

May 17, 2016

After Snow and Shingles, Can I Start Walking in My Neighborhood Again?

I'm finally recovering from my shingles siege. If I were to list the major health setbacks that have most affected my quality of life, I'd rank them this way:
  1. Parkinson's disease, diagnosed in 2009,
  2. Prostatectomy, 1995, and
  3. Shingles, 2016.
Ooops. How could I forget my alcoholism, which hands-down takes that #1 slot?

The shingles diagnosis came on March 24, and I'm still not fully recovered. I can't remember any other ailment that knocked me out for so long.

I had the shingles vaccine several years ago. But it's not uncommon for people, particularly seniors, to get shingles anyway. But vaccinated sufferers typically get a milder version.

Usually an attack of shingles comes with lots of pain and nonstop itching. I had only a little pain and no itching. Instead, I had an almost complete loss of energy.

For nearly two months, I've canceled most activities outside the house. Around inside the house, I almost always use a cane or walker, or hang on to the guardrails I've installed in most key hallways.

My Biggest Concern for the Long-Term
I expect my energy  -- slowly but surely -- will return to its pre-shingles state (which wasn't all that great, given my age and the Parkinson's).

What I worry about most is whether I'll be able to recover any ability to walk independently -- a problem of mine before the shingles but one on which I had begun making some progress. 

May 13, 2016

Jeez! This Photo Brings Back a Flood of Memories about My Pokhara Family

This photo was taken several days ago outside my house in Washington.

Two of the people shown in that photo appear in THIS photo taken 15 years earlier:

During those 15 years, I made over a dozen trips to Nepal that added unexpected and unique enhancements to my life that continue to this day... primarily because I became friends with two wonderful Nepali families -- the Pariyars in Pokhara and the Thapas in Kathmandu. 

This post will be a nostalgic photo remembrance of my happy times with my Pokhara family. This trip down memory lane was triggered by Ramesh Pariyar's parents' arrival earlier this month, their first visit to the U.S. 

My Introduction to Nepal
Pokhara was the final stop on my tour of India with two London friends in February and March, 2001.We ended up spending a lot of time at Mike's Restaurant, run by Mike Frame, an American who first came to Nepal with the Peace Corps. He stayed, and ended up running the popular Mike's Breakfast in Kathmandu and Mike's Restaurant in Pokhara.

At Mike's, I became friends with Ramesh Pariyar. I returned to Nepal in the fall when I received an email invitation from Ramesh to join him on the journey to his mountain village of Warchok for the major Nepali festival of Dashain.

The trip to Warchok turned out to be one of my most enjoyable travel experiences ever. It sealed the deal for my continued involvement with Nepal and its people. The photo at the start of this post shows me receiving tika from Ramesh's mother as part of the Dashain celebration.

To learn more about tika and Nepal's festivals, click here,

Photo Album of My Pokhara Family
Enough narrative. Here are some of the hundreds of Pokhara family photos taken over the past 15 years:

On the night I arrived at the Pariyar home in Warchok, family and
friends gathered outside for a welcome dance. Here one of Ramesh's sisters
tries to teach me the dance.

The tourist section of Pokhara abuts Fewa Lake much like my hometown
of Ithaca overlooks Cayuga Lake. A differnce: Cayuga is surrounded by
hills and Fewa sits at the base of snow-covered mountains.  

Those black spots are water buffalo who come for a swim every day.

On my first visits to Pokhara, I rented a room in one of the cabins that were
part of Mike's Restauant. My favorite was this one which overlooked
both the restaurant's patio and the lake.

Eventually, I helped the Pariyars build this house, which included a room
with a Western-style toilet. It became known as "John's room."

Here I am with Ramesh, his wife Laxmi, and their son Rahil  in the new home.

Rahil is ready for the first big event in his young life -- the celebration
of his first feeding with solid food. For boys, this event occurs
about five months after they're born.For girls, the celebration usually
occurs either in the fourth or six month after birth..

Looks like Rahil has decided to feast on his thumb.

I'm giving Rahil tika, not food.

Rahil enjoyed coming to "John's Room"

As part of  Rahil's second birthday celebration, we went
to the temple on the little  island in the lake.

A visit to a shrine. Famous Fishtail Mountain
appears right over Rahil's head.

Big family gatherings were always held on the house's rooftop.

And this isn't even the whole family.

This shot was taken from the balcony outside my room.
That's Fishtail Mountain again, top left.

Here's that guy again.

Mike had a unique house just down the road from ours. Here his
housemate and caregiver Surya is giving Mike a ride to the restaurant.
Mike was beginning to lose his long-time battle with cancer.

The green card we had been seeking for Ramesh finally came through for Ramesh in 2008. But Laxmi and Rahil stayed in Pokhara while he got established in the U.S. This photo of me with part of the Pokhara family was taken on my last trip to Nepal which was for the joyous Kathmandu wedding in March 2013 of Nimesh and Bhawana, my current and beloved housemates.

But I was also  going to be joined on the flight back by Laxmi and Rahil, who were going to join Ramesh in in the Washington suburbs. Their imminent departure explains why this group doesn't look too happy.

Even sadder is this photo taken of Rahil and Laxmi and me as we prepare to leave for the flight back to the U.S. Standing on my right are Ramesh's mother and Laxmi's mother. Their look says it all.

But to end on a happy note, here I am with Laxmi's sister Saraswati,
whom I adore.We just learned  last week that she has been granted a U.S. visitor's
visa good for five  years!

May 12, 2016

A Curcumin-Like Nasal Spray to Treat Alzheimer's?

This blog is loaded with reports about the proven medicinal powers of curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric.

One of the newest applications for the compound is its use in aerosol form to fight Alzheimer’s disease (AD). More about that intriguing development in a minute.

First, here’s one of the most “user-friendly” descriptions about turmeric / curcumin I’ve seen, from – of all places – a food website.
A cherished cousin of ginger, turmeric is a root that accounts for an excess of uses in our kitchens and lives. Bright orange-yellow in colour with a heady fragrance, turmeric has a unique earthy taste, with a touch of citrusy bitterness and the numbing punch of pepper. It is a staple in all Indian cooking, with its primary compound curcumin, giving the delectable dishes that lovely yellow tinge, a staining quality that can often turn against us (hint: stained nails after devouring some delicious curry). 
Coined as the most powerful spices of all, haldi is every Indian household's go-to fix for a variety of health problems. Its incredible list of healing properties include antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory - that should be an enough number of antis to make you look up and rethink its usage in your food! 
The use of this spice has been traced back a thousand years in India and China with some stories even suggesting that it was used about ten thousand years back when Lord Rama walked the Earth. Its usage has been long embedded in the ancient Ayurvedic practice and has been cited to promote the holistic health of the body - this has resulted in increased usage of it in the Western world too.

The same website provides “more than enough reasons to include it [turmeric] in our daily diet.” Those reasons (explained with additional information on the site) include:
  1. Relief from Arthritic Pain
  2. Cancer Prevention
  3. Brain Protection
  4. Digestion Improvement
  5. Healing Properties
  6. Delay in Diabetes
  7. Immunity Booster
  8. Liver Detoxifier
Number three on this list -- brain protection -- encompasses studies showing that curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties can help slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease, I've been taking curcumin daily for the past five years or longer.

There's no way of really knowing for sure, other than perhaps an autopsy after I'm dead, whether curcumin actually has been slowing down the progression of my Parkinson's. My neurologists have told me that my PD has been progressing slowly but that could be attributable to all sorts of factors. My gut sense, however, is that curcumin has helped.
And Now, a Curcumin Aerosol Spray for Alzheimer’s?
Adding a new twist to #3 above (brain protection), Japanese scientists are developing a new nasal aerosol spray to deliver the powerful effects of curcumin more directly into the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The intriguing news first appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and was picked up by various media, including the ScienceDaily website earlier this month.

May 11, 2016

My Great-Grandchildren's Names Help Explain Hillary's Problem

Yesterday I posted about the birth of Emira, my sixth great- grandchild.  Here are the names of my six great-grandchildren:

My granddaughter Emily has two: Emarie and Emira.

Granddaughter Jessie has four: Kaylee, Kenzie, Camden, and Hannah.

Okay, how many of those names have you seen before?

Hannah is the only one I'd seen before. Whatever happened to John and Mary, the two most popular names for the past 500 years?

I checked the site the Social /Security Administration maintains on the most popular baby names and here's some of what I found:

The Top 10 Boy's Names in the 1880's share six members with the 10 Most Popular Boy's Names in the 1950's: John, William, James, Robert, Charles, and Thomas. But the Top 10 Boy's Names for 2015 only includes one name from that list -- William.

May 10, 2016

Here's Emira, My Sixth Great-Grandchild

Emira, born on April 15, is the daughter of my granddaughter Emily. In this photo, she's flashing the V-for-victory sign:

Dad Jerrod gazes at her fondly, while sister Emarie tries to ignore her:

Here are my other four great-grandchildren in the pool with their mother (my granddaughter) Jessie and her husband Dan. Starting at the upper right, we have the oldest of the great-grandchildren, Kaylee, who will celebrate her 10th birthday in July. Next comes mother Jessie (I'll refrain from giving her age), then Kenzie, who celebrated her fifth birthday in April. Dan holds Camden, born on a memorable Christmas Eve, 2014. In the water tube is Hannah born December 7, 2015,

The Entire Schappi Clan in April, 2015
Hannah and Emira will join this group. I enjoyed holding a family reunion at my house last spring. For a "Who's Who" and some family history, click here.

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The names of my great-grandchildren provide an important clue regarding this year's Presidential election.  Explanation in tomorrow's post.