Monthly Archives: August 2015

YAWN TO REFRESH YOUR BRAIN

When my 4 sons were growing up  we had a wonderful dog, a German Shepherd mix who tolerated all kinds of young boy behavior. One activity that never failed to produce peals of laughter was when they could get Alice to imitate their yawns. They discovered at a young age that yawns are contagious.

Yawning can be seen in human fetuses as early as 11 weeks, but it isn’t just humans and dogs who yawn. All mammals as well as birds and fish have been seen yawning. It’s particularly common among primates.

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Curiosity about yawning goes back to the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates speculated that humans yawn to expel bad air when suffering from a fever. More recent research seems to support that idea in that the behavior cools the brain.

The more obvious conditions  we associate with yawning are boredom and sleepiness. But studies about yawning indicate that it can be helpful in waking us up, when our lose our focus, or change behaviors. Maria Konnikova, in an article in the New Yorker, tells us that Olympic athletes yawn before an event, musicians before a performance and paratroopers before a jump often yawn.

Years ago I attended a workshop about the subject given by a psychologist. She extolled the benefits of deliberately yawning as do Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman  in their book, How God Changes Your Brain.

They report that in recent brain-scan studies that yawning produces neural activity in the area of the brain related to consciousness, self-reflection and memory retrieval, and they encourage frequent yawning for their readers. Waldman, who teaches in the Business School at Loyola University in Los Angeles, promotes yawning and slow stretching every hour to reduce stress and refresh the brain. I have found it is helpful. My problem is remembering to do so.

LOVE ‘EM, HATE ‘EM

Among all the things I have owned over my lifetime nothing has created more stress, joy, anguish and learning than has my computer. Last Monday my modem gave up. Until it was replaced I felt cut off from the world. And I’m not alone. Having spent more time than usual in airports and other public places recently reminded me again of how ubiquitous and invasive technology has become.

So I imagine most of my readers will identify with these cartoons. After all, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

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Computer Cartoons

<b>Computer</b> <b>Cartoons</b>

funny <b>computer</b> cartoon2

MISHAPS AT THE AIRPORT

Traveling by air at any age can be an exercise in patience. But as an old lady with a pacemaker, titanium knee and long-standing fear of flying, I found, on a recent trip, that it requires more than patience.

I don’t know if it’s my birth sign, Capricorn, that makes me uncomfortable when my feet leave Mother Earth, or a harrowing experience circling LAX in a thunderstorm many years ago, but I’m not fond of flying. I’ve avoided small turbo-prop aircraft in particular, as I’d heard passengers have to put up with more turbulence in them than in larger planes.

So when I learned that my granddaughter, who married a British young man last year, was coming to this country to introduce him to friends and family at a reception in Portland, Oregon, I knew I’d have to face my fear or miss the event.

On past trips by air I’ve driven 4 hours to Sacramento, but I wanted to save driving time by leaving from a small regional airport, and I found a direct flight at a convenient time to Portland and back. The only planes to fly out of Santa Rosa Airport are, you guessed it, turbo-props.

I decided to “reframe” the experience from scary to exciting. It would be a new adventure, I told myself. I visualized winging my way north like Snoopy in his Sopworth Camel complete with a red scarf trailing behind. Crazy as it sounds, that helped.

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Once at the airport, I knew I’d have to undergo the indignity of being pulled aside for a pat-down, as Santa Rosa doesn’t have sophisticated screening devices. The idea that an 84 year-old, 100 pound female is a threat to the safety of anyone is ludicrous,  but I submitted to the ordeal and soon was on my way.

When I arrived in Portland I called my son to pick me up outside the Alaska terminal. I waited and waited. Finally a baggage handler who’d seen me pacing the sidewalk asked, “Do you know there’s another level? This is the upper level. There’s another one down the escalator.” Oh!

I found the busy down-escalator without difficulty, but I was pulling a bag with wheels and carrying another smaller one. Hmmm. With both hands full, I stepped onto the moving stairs where the wheels on my bag immediately caught, and down I went. Fellow passengers ignored me. I was able to grab  my bags and get to my feet before the escalator reached the lower level where my dependable son and daughter-in-law were there to meet me. Dirk loaded my bags and me into his car, and we were off for a delightful 3 days. ‘Tis said that “All’s well that end’s well.” And so it was.

HAPPINESSS CARDS at the DOCTOR’S OFFICE

I was in Ukiah yesterday getting a recurring spot of cancer removed from my face, along with seemingly dozens of other patients that were cycling through the doctor’s office like widgets on a conveyor belt. We were all getting a procedure called Moh’s surgery, in which the doc removes skin at the site, sends the sample to a nearby lab for analysis and cuts out more skin until no more cancer cells show up at the edges of the sample.

So there were lots of bored people sitting in the waiting room with big pressure bandages on the incision site, thumbing through outdated People magazines, waiting for a cancer-free sample that would allow them to get stitched back up and go home. As usual, I had some Happiness Cards with me, so I approached each patient with a handful of fanned out cards and suggested he/she take one, read the quotation on the back and keep it if it “spoke” to them or select another if it didn’t.

The first woman drew the card with the photo below, and on the back was a quote by the author, Anais Nin: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” She told me her daughter brought her to the appointment. Although perfectly capable of driving herself, recently she became afraid to do so, even short distances in town. Now she thought she’d do the driving on her way back home. With her daughter in the car they’d both see if she was safe behind the wheel. She thanked me profusely for helping her see how she’d been limiting her independence and her life.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Anais Nin

All of us in the waiting room were seniors, a group that responds well to my cards, I’d thought they probably wouldn’t appeal so much to young people. But many of the staff, who appeared to be in their 30’s, looked as if they could use a brief diversion so I passed around Happiness Cards to them as well. I received big smiles and thank-you’s and more thanks as I left to return home.

I am naturally a rather shy person and approaching strangers wasn’t easy to do at first. But seeing how people respond to my cards has embolden me, and I look forward to every opportunity to spread a little happiness and sometimes an “Aha” that changes a life.

See my cards at wwwhappinesscards.net

CAT TROUBLE

Penny and I met at the Humane Society 15 years ago when she was about 6 months old. She was a beautiful short-haired, copper-colored piebald tabby, calm, affectionate and sick with a cold. The “calm and affectionate”  was left behind along with her cold when I adopted her and  took her home to my sunny apartment. I thought we’d live together happily ever after, but she had different plans. No sooner did she hit the white carpet in the front room than she was off investigating, bold as if she owned the place. She soon did.

Up on my kitchen counters, behind the stove, on top of the kitchen cabinets, on the dining room table and all living room furniture. No spot was off-limits as far as she was concerned. I tried everything I could think of to keep the kitchen sanitary, from rattling a tin box filled with metal screws and nails to scare her off the counters, to spraying her with water from a water pistol. I even covered the food prep areas with aluminum foil. Nothing fazed her.

There came a point fairly quickly in our relationship when I realized if we were to live together amicably, I’d have to back off. It meant scrubbing down the kitchen before any cooking, but so be it. I wanted to enjoy my feline companion.

Much of that enjoyment I expected from physical contact. I imagined sitting in my rocker with her purring contentedly in my lap while I stroked her soft fur. I think she may have agreed to sitting with me for a few seconds, but petting her then, or any other time was something she didn’t like and wouldn’t tolerate. (Over time, however, she’s grown to enjoy it.)Penny

It will may come as no surprise to learn I eventually had to let her outside. She was much too active to be an indoor cat, despite all the toys, scratching posts and attention I provided. So with trepidation I let her out. I didn’t see her again for 8 days. I nailed up signs around the neighborhood, called animal control and went out looking for her every day. When I’d finally come to terms with losing her, I heard her at the door one night, howling like a wild cat.

For the past 13 years we’ve lived in a little house in the country with a fenced yard that she guards with her life. She’s a happy inside-outside animal, but last summer she refused to come inside. I ended up with a terrible infestation of fleas. I couldn’t get rid of them until she decided to return.

And once inside she began behaving like the aged cat she was. She slept most of the time except to eat and make brief forays outside. No more climbing on kitchen counters. She was perfectly behaved, the kind of cat I thought she’d be 15 years before. But I also realized she probably wouldn’t be around for another winter. I was sad.

I realize now there’s a lot of truth in the saying that cats have 9 lives. Rather than her body lying in a little grave in my garden now, she’s back to her old ways, as frisky and feisty as ever, and I’m back scrubbing counters to avoid eating her fur with my food.