A Kick In The Pants In My Mailbox

Do you ever put on your workout clothes and then not exercise?  Maybe you end up wearing them all day while doing everything but exercising?  Yeah, me too.  It’s amazing how much I can get done when I’m laced up and ready to go.  I’ve cleaned out the fridge, weeded gardens, plucked my eyebrows and vacuumed the entire house to postpone a work out.  And if you see me wearing my work out clothes in the grocery store?  You’d be correct —  I’m deep into avoidance.   I’ll admit, I’ve done this a fair amount of times — and yesterday was no different.

My gear was on and I was trying to decide between doing a dvd or going for a run.  Both would be tough at this point since I’ve been L A Z Y under my rock.  I couldn’t decide and so I checked my email, facebook and twitter accounts.  Still couldn’t decide so I cleaned the kitchen, watered plants, did the sudoku and got the mail.

And there it was.  A kick in the pants in my mailbox.

Personal mail in a handwritten envelope!   Like the crack rush I get when I have a new comment on my blog except NOTHING compares to snail mail.   The fact that someone bought a card and wrote in it with a real pen makes it so personal.  And touching.  It’s practically an extinct art form.

It was a card from a friend offering encouragement to just hang in there and keep running.  Telling me to take it one day at a time and to remember that “It’s better to run a slow 3 miles than stay on the sofa.”  This from a runner who can run half marathons meant a lot.  The timing was perfect.  I actually laughed out loud and thought how did she know?

I put the mail on the counter, stretched and ran out the door.

It was the fastest I’ve run in a month — and it felt great.

Two things I’ve taken away from this:

  • The old cliche JUST DO IT is true.  I’ve already made my decision to exercise regularly to keep my brain and body healthy.  Now I need to respect my decision and just friggin do it!
  • Kindness is priceless.  Unexpected, out of the blue kindness is even better.  I can’t wait to pay it forward.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adjusting Under My Rock

1990 Mom and baby Jacob

The 10K I ran in May was the last time I ran 6 miles . . .  or 5 or 4 for that matter.  Running 3 miles two or three days a week is about it, and even that has become difficult.  Ugh!  How can I lose 3 miles in one month?!  The short answer?   Stress.   During my recent visit to Minneapolis that included moving my mom into her new Assisted Living home — I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t take care of myself and I didn’t run.  I was a wreck and lost 5lbs in 10 days.  I’m pretty sure those pounds were my newly acquired 10K muscles.

When I arrived back home in Virgina, I was sick for a week and felt like I’d been run over by a truck.   And I’ve pretty much been under a rock ever since.  Recovering.  Keeping to myself in prime reclusive form.  Avoiding people.  Some might call this depression.  But I like to think of my solitude as more of an adjustment period.

Adjusting is not new to me.  As a mother, and even as a daughter of aging parents, the adjustments are aplenty.  Putting my children on the kindergarten bus comes to mind, as well as watching my newly licensed children drive away for the first time.  And of course there’s the adjustment period I’m currently in — letting go of my children as they learn to fly on their own, and letting go of my mom who is in her 7th year with Alzheimer’s.

The dictionary defines adjustment as “adaptation; harmony achieved by modification or change of a position.”

In the above definition, LETTING GO is my modification.

1993 Jordan Ruth is named after my mom.

Letting go is saying YES TO WHAT IS.   It’s saying yes to what is true right now.  While we may not like what is true, if we are to live in harmony, we have no other choice than to let go and accept.  The opposite of letting go is grasping, and with grasping comes wishing, wanting, clenching and suffering — not a harmonious place to be.

So I am working on letting go of my children and letting go of my mom.  I am adjusting.  I’m changing my position from being the center of my children’s lives to being silently by their side, readily available with a hug or advice, while they take the wheel and navigate the trajectory of their lives.

Letting go of my mom is different.  I’m saying the real good bye as I let go of my mom.   She is still with us, but because of  Alzheimer’s, I’m saying good bye to the mom who sang in the church choir, hung clothes on the line and called my children by name.  I’m saying good bye to the mom who sent birthday cards, visited me in Virginia and who called on the phone just to say hello.  Since using the words “mom” and “daughter” are confusing, I’m saying good bye to them as well.  I’ll be her friend.  I’m changing my position from being a daughter she knew and loved to that of a being a really nice woman with a friendly smile who likes to hug.   I’ll be her loving friend who calls her Ruth instead of mom . . .  who will do anything for her.

Adjusting and letting go.  Changing my position.

Soon, in a few years I would imagine, Alzheimer’s will complete it’s grip on my mom.  Then I’ll be saying good bye to mom’s physical form.   I’d like to think this won’t be too difficult as I’ll have said all my good byes by then.  But I’m probably mistaken.  And then I might be adjusting again.

Under my rock.

1996 Jake's first day of Kindergarten
1998 Jordan's first day of Kindergarten

 

2003 Mom with Jake and Jordan at Rush Lake in Minnesota. Pre-Alzheimer's symptoms.
2007 Jake's first solo drive. 16 years old.

 

2009 Jordan's first solo drive 16 years old

 

10 Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp

When I read or hear news confirming the possibility of preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s I am renewed with hope!  The idea that my future can be influenced by the choices I make today is pretty powerful and it helps me stay the course of being an Alzheimer’s Warrior.

That’s why I love this recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled “10 Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp.” It offers clear and simple ways to love your brain, with exercise being the top two.   GET MOVING is #1 and says, “If you do only one thing to keep your brain young, exercise.”  This is my motivation — nothing has given me a better reason to lace up and break a sweat.  PUMP IRON is #2 on the list.   I don’t pump iron.  Yet.

The bonus?   A healthy brain is just ONE of the benefits of following this list.

Go to “10 Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp” to learn more.

What are you doing to keep YOUR brain healthy?

Read Ingredients. Avoid Crap.

“Skinny Bitch” is a book that had me at page one. It’s a funny in your face rant on health and nutrition that I found refreshing.   I didn’t know it at the time, but when I read this book 4 years ago, I was at the beginning of my Alzheimer’s prevention escapades.  I was starting to make healthy changes in my life and this sassy little book gave me the kick in the pants that I needed.

I was out of shape, had no energy and wasn’t sleeping well.  This book, which is more about being healthy than it is about being skinny helped open my eyes to the crap I was eating that was well, making me feel like crap.

I used to drink diet soda and eat Doritos, and now I don’t.  I used to trust the FDA, their nifty food pyramid, and their claim that Bagel Bites are okay to eat.  Now I don’t. And you shouldn’t either.

For example, for years I loved my espresso in the morning with Coffee-Mate, sugar and cinnamon. Then Skinny Bitch said:

If you want to get skinny, you can only rely on yourself. If you adapt only one practice from this book, let it be this: Read the ingredients. Forget counting carbs, adding calories, and multiplying fat grams. Just read the ingredients. . . . . If they are healthy, wholesome, and pure — dive in. If there is refined sugar, white or bleached flour, hydrogenated oils, and animal products, artificial anything, or some scary-looking word that you don’t know — don’t eat it.

I immediately thought about my beloved Coffee-Mate — yes beloved, and I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, I found a list of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. Harmful, scary, mystery shit.  That was it, I never used Coffee-Mate again.  And since espresso is blech without cream or sugar — I now drink tea and coffee. No cream, milk or sugar needed.

I don’t mean to pick on Coffee-Mate, but it’s such a good example of how I . . .  we eat things every day that were never meant to be consumed.  Plus, it was the first of many “food” items I dropped, so it kinda has a special place in my heart.  Next were the Doritos and the diet soda.

Now I read ingredients to get and stay healthy and to prevent mystery chemicals from leaching into my brain.

If you’re Racing Alzheimer’s too, (or just want to be healthy), it’s important to read all ingredients and try not to eat crap. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, then it shouldn’t be on your food list.  As Skinny Bitch says, “keep it healthy, wholesome, and pure.”

Skinny Bitch = Healthy Bitch = Alzheimer’s-free Bitch.    Small shift, BIG CHANGE.

CLICK HERE to read what Organic Authority has to say about Coffee-Mate.

What “food” have you dropped?

Alzheimer’s: Why Are We Doing So Little?

I love TED Talks!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to TED.com and search for anything — but please come back.  TEDMED extends into the world of medicine and wellness, which is where the video below is from.

Gregory Petsko, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis University, gives a presentation on Alzheimer’s disease that is easy to understand and with a sense of urgency.  In the video, Dr. Petsko tries to answer the question, “Why, in the face of this oncoming tsunami of Alzheimer’s, are we doing so little?”  He then offers four possible answers.

1.  Stigma.  The way Alzheimer’s impacts the brain and ultimately the actions of the afflicted can come across as a mental illness.  They act strange and we don’t know what to do with them — so we pretend they’re not there and they become invisible.

2.  We all get senile as we get older right?  Wrong.  But so many people accept the senility of an Alzheimer’s sufferer as normal.  It’s not.

3.  Alzheimer’s patients are not able to advocate for themselves.  They can barely communicate effectively  — how would they ever launch a plan to improve care and funding for this disease?

4.  The caregivers who are caring for their loved ones are just too tired and overwhelmed to take on anything else.

So who will speak up for Alzheimer’s disease to garner more attention and funding? 

Perhaps it’s people like you and I who are watching our loved ones succumb to this disease, but who still have a VOICE.  Rather than wait and hope the disease doesn’t find us, what if we were proactive in our efforts to fight this disease?  And what if our fight made such an impact that funding and research was increased and the number of Alzheimer’s sufferers was decreased?

Learn more about what you can do to help elevate Alzheimer’s from a disease to a cause by becoming an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association.  I have joined the cause.  I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ve joined.

This is a 16 minute video that’s packed with information.  Check it out to see why I now imagine little garbage trucks going to the recycle bin inside my brain rather than the garbage dump.

10 Reasons I’m Grateful for Alzheimer’s Disease

All that we behold is full of blessings.    ~  William Wordsworth

Yesterdays post about Alzheimer’s disease killing my mom was honest.  It wasn’t meant to be anything other than that.   I have experienced many emotions throughout the course of my mom’s disease.  I’ve been sad, frustrated, joyful, embarrassed, protective, impatient, scared and yes angry.  But I’ve also been grateful.  And of all the emotional ups and downs this disease brings — gratefulness is my gift and comfort to myself.

My mother is still on this earth, she is in good hands, and I get to tell her everything in my heart over and over again.

Yes, I am grateful for Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of Alzheimer’s . . . .

  1. My mom is free from the worries of the world and is generally happy.
  2. I am closer with my parents because I am more involved in their lives.
  3. I am also closer with my brother and sister who are my partners on this journey.
  4. I have a pretty good idea of how and when my mother will die — it’s a gift in disguise.
  5. I appreciate and treasure every moment I have with my mom, and those I love.
  6. I know how and why to strive for fitness and health — including brain health.
  7. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.
  8. I see the fragility of life, and I try not to take things for granted.
  9. I’m trying to live with intention and mindfulness.
  10. I have a good reason to run!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are
conscious of our treasures.
      ~  Thornton Wilder

Alzheimer’s Disease is Killing My Mom

Alzheimer’s disease is killing my mom.  Sounds harsh, but it’s true.  It’s deliberately taking over my mom’s brain like a wildfire out of control.  It’s an insidious, controlled blaze that is slowly and methodically destroying the parts of her brain responsible for memory, language, reasoning, walking, swallowing and eventually breathing. It’s a long drawn out death that will most likely have my mom in a vegetative state near the end.

Nothing will put out this fire except the fire itself when it destroys it’s host.

In describing the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, alzheimersillness.com says,

In this final stage of disease progression, many individuals enter a catatonic-like state, and they are suffering from the worst effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They lose their ability to speak and respond to others, though occasionally words may be uttered. They are unable to sit up, smile, swallow, hold their head up, and their reflexes become abnormal and muscles get rigid. Eventually this end stage leads to death, typically about eight years after they were diagnosed with the disease.

 

I’m telling you this because we forget that Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness.  Well, I know I did — rather, I was in denial about it.  The symptoms of Alzheimer’s shift the focus from terminal illness to memory impairment and strange behavior.   It becomes real easy to focus on how the Alzheimer’s sufferer is no longer normal and how we are coping with the abnormal behavior, rather than acknowledging they are dying a long drawn out death.

We are complacent when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.  We hear the term all the time and many of us come to believe it’s a natural part of aging, but it’s not.

Quick — what do you think of when I say Alzheimer’s disease?  If you’re like me, you think of memory loss.  But that’s just the first of 7 stages of the disease, with death being the last.   What if I told you that 42.3 million people worldwide will die from brain cancer in the year 2020.  Scary right?  This isn’t true, but if you replace the words brain cancer with Alzheimer’s, that would be true.

Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease not a memory disease.

There is no cure.  Which means my mom is dying.

Yes, I’m angry about this.

Come back tomorrow for “10 Reasons I’m Grateful for Alzheimer’s Disease”

 

Coffee May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

              

I have been reading that drinking a few cups of coffee everyday could prove beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.  Now there’s a new study out that further supports this claim.

The people at Science Daily say,

Those cups of coffee that you drink every day to keep alert appear to have an extra perk – especially if you’re an older adult. A recent study monitoring the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65 found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up. Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

And,

Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss,” Dr. Arendash said. “Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side-effects for most of us. Moreover, our studies show that caffeine and coffee appear to directly attack the Alzheimer’s disease process.

Drink up!  But try to avoid cream and sugar if you can.  If you only give up one — give up sugar.

Read more about “High blood caffeine levels in older adults linked to avoidance of Alzheimer’s disease” and other related news articles on caffeine and Alzheimer’s.