Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cutting edge...

Or lunatic fringe? Here's where the Christmas season took me:

1. I send a grocery certificate to our tireless paper man each year in thanks for his pre-dawn delivery of the news. I keep hoping that this little tip will cause him to throw it slightly closer to the door, but alas, that hasn't happened yet. I didn't send him one last year as I misplaced his "Christmas card" containing his self-addressed envelope (not stamped, however). Pulled a book off the shelf the other day, one that I read...oh say about a year ago...and found said card in play as a bookmark.

2. I received a rebate check about a month ago, not for much but 'free money' and a shame to lose it. But lost it was amidst the circulars and Christmas catalogues and back issues of "Science." While rooting around in my files the other day, I found it paper-clipped to the November bank statement.

3. My husband always totes a large trash bag out Christmas morning to throw away wrapping paper lest I grab it up for reuse next year. The bag swung with a metallic clunk against our radiator. On investigation, he found the scissors that I misplaced while gift-wrapping the night before. I have no idea how it got there, and I wondered if the lost roll of tape was in there too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What a crumby surprise!

At the end of this long day, I was writing in charts, snacking on chocolates with sprinkles. I noted a besprinkled candy crumb on the desk, plucked it up and popped it in my mouth. Well no, it wasn't something really, really awful, but I quickly fished that piece of fuzz from my winter gloves off my tongue.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Muffed my muffin mission

I zipped down the basement stairs to get a package of English muffins out of the freezer. In a bit of a hurry as I had an afternoon engagement, I stopped by the guest bedroom to check out my hair in the mirror there. Would it need washing? Could it be saved with a bit of fluffing and a barrette?

Looking good, I decided, smiling at myself in the dim light. Looking really good. I ran back upstairs, puffed with a false pride of appearance uncommon to middle-aged women in sweats and slippers.

Back in the kitchen, my husband looked up expectantly for the muffins...the muffins still safe in the freezer.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mary Karr's menopause moment

Mary Karr, author of "The Liar's Club", has a new book out called "Lit". She was here in Denver on a book tour. A warm and witty speaker, Ms. Karr especially engaged my interest when she had the perfect menopause moment during her talk.

An audience member had asked her if she checked the details of the life events in "Lit" with others who were there at the time. She began explaining that memoirs were most importantly about the way the author remembers events, that there is no need for objective input on details. Midway through her discourse on the role of memory in memoirs, she forgot what the question was.

I just finished this book (lucky enough to get an advance uncorrected proof from Amazon!) and I highly recommend it to you. If Mary Karr comes to your city on her promotional rounds, go see her; she's a pleasure to hear.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The icing on the cake!

My family's favorite dessert, reserved for special occasions such as birthdays, was the delicious Hungarian delight Dobosh torte. A bakery here in Denver called Vollmer's--long defunct-- was the one and only source of this cake so rich the hairs would stand on the back of one's neck. The end pieces were completely encrusted with chocolate sprinkles and were reserved solely for the birthday celebrant.

My niece Miranda texted me recently "OMG i just found vollmer's dobosh tort at king soopers!" A perfect treat for all of us during a most difficult week as her mom/my sister-in-law was coming to the end of her life with ovarian cancer.

Elaine had been refusing much more than a few mouthfuls of broth or a few swallows of diluted juice for weeks. When the dobosh torte arrived, she had a sliver, and then another. As the end drew near, Elaine said "It may be gilding the lily, but I think I'll have a piece of dobosh torte."

We gave her the end piece and she ate the whole thing--her last request, her final meal!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Put a lid on it!

In the scheme of menopause moments, this was just a little menopause oversight, annoying but no serious consequences.

I spotted the stupid laundry, let it sit awhile, added the detergent and set the cycle. Then I headed out for the day, expecting to initiate dry and fold upon my return. Well, the soak's on me! Stupid laundry sat all day in soapy water because I forgot to close the washer lid before I left.

How's that for airing my dirty laundry?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The irony of the egg

In an ironic but menopausal moment, I no sooner finished my last post but I headed downstairs. Cooking smells filled the air, and my first conclusion was that my husband, uncharacteristically, had decided to start in making brunch.

Imagine my surprise and dismay to discover the eggs I'd put on to hard boil prior to heading up to write bumping wildly about in what little water remained in the pot. The chronicling of one menopause moment leads to another.

Is this a new app for IPhones?

I grabbed my blue fleece jacket after exercise class, thrusting my hand in the pocket to make sure my IPhone was still there. Reassured by its familiar shape, I pulled it out to check for messages. My first shock--it no longer had a cover. The second? My photograph of autumn leaves was gone, replaced by the original "earth from space" wallpaper.

My brain whirled, trying to figure out how a phone could transform completely in an hour. Only then did I come up with the alternative--and correct--conclusion that this was not my blue fleece jacket; mine, in fact, still hung from its hook.

The times when my first explanatory pass at a menopause moment is completely absurd are those when I feel most in danger of impending dementia!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Aging attorney flops at the courthouse

This is a good moment from Miss Trial here in town:

I think I’ve seen the wearing of slippers to the office covered in your blog, but today I wore my flip flops to court! Didn’t notice until I was putting quarters in the meter, dropped a quarter near my feet and saw them. There was no time for turning back.

So, I flip flopped my way along the sidewalk to the courthouse, went through security and as the flip-flop sound echoed through the hallways I truly did notice people looking at my feet. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled weakly (very). In the courtroom I was able to position my briefcase so my feet didn’t show, and when I walked up to the podium I waddled in a way that the flip-flopping was minimized.

I think it’s time to carry a spare pair of dress shoes in my trunk!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Did Freud see this coming?

Being very hip and New Age, I was having a texted conversation with a friend who is going through treatment for a serious illness. We were extolling the virtues of daughters at the bedside, and her daughter, appropriately named Georgia, has been a perfect peach. Here was my final word on the subject:

Who will take care of the aging parents who only have sins?

No offense to my own Freudian slip of a son, but I can kinda' see where that came from!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I must've been loaded...

I've always pretended, as I performed that loathsome chore of unloading the dishwasher, that the exercise of sorting silverware would enhance my IQ. Apparently not.

I unloaded the plates and silverware, then put the dirty dishes from the countertop in the rack before tackling the cups above. I needed a break, so I closed up the dishwasher (I tend to walk into it, leaving my shins all abruised) and wandered around the kitchen sipping coffee and musing.

Back to the task at hand. Opened the dishwasher and thought, with satisfaction, ah hardly any plates left to unload. It was only after I placed the last slightly greasy dish in the cupboard that I realized that I had just put away the dirty plates I'd loaded up not 10 minutes before.

No increased IQ points for me!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chewing out hubby

My 50-something year old patient complained of irritability and impatience.

"I'm not myself," she said.

"That easy irritation, easy frustration, is common at this time of life," I assured her. "Snapping at your husband for the way he chews and stuff like that."

Her eyes widened with surprise and recognition. "Did I tell you tell you that?"

"No," I laughed, "I know about that because I hear about it from a lot of women our age."

"I feel so bad," she said, laughing harder than I was, "asking him how does he make an olive sound like a piece of celery."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twofer honorary menopause moment

These from Dada:

I'm typing this while the charcoal is heating on the patio. (I'm having my Memorial Day cookout. It's two days late. Reason? When I went to the store on the holiday for my bratwurst cookout items -- buns, brats, potato salad, mustard, etc. -- I returned with everything. Everything except the bratwurst! (And I had a grocery list.) I joined my wife for a veggie meal instead.)

But that's not my point. After reading your very funny MM glasses moment, I just had to share mine from this morning. (BTW, men can have menopause moments too, right? Maybe if not from that, maybe from all the cooked egg whites?)

Today was a landmark day. I would head out early to the Central Appraisal District's office to finally apply for my "over 65" property tax exemption. Mrs. Dada volunteered to go along.

"No, you sleep in, this shouldn't take me long," was my response. To make sure everything went smoothly, I even thought to take a copy of my birth certificate. I drove the 12 miles to their office very early as Mrs. Dada slept. Everything went exactly as I'd planned.

There were no crowds, I immediately signed in and moments later, before a clerk, was all set to go. That is, until she asked, "May I see a photo ID, like your a driver's license, please?"

Hopelessly groping for my wallet was futile. "Oh, I think I left it at home," I said sheepishly, sliding my birth certificate toward her. We both laughed as she slid my rejected birth certificate back to me as I related how the last things my wife always asks me as I depart the house to go shopping are, "Got the cell phone?" and "Do you have your wallet?" (It's almost embarrassing.)

This morning I wish she hadn't slept in, that she'd been around to ask me that last question; to save me 24 miles, a lot of time, and maybe an embarrassing menopause moment.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More adventures through the reading glasses

If it weren't for misadventures with readers, most days I'd have no menopause moments at all.

My patient and I wound up the annual visit with a little chitchat on aging and the challenges thereof. I gathered up my pen, my stethoscope, her chart, and prepared for a graceful exit from the exam room. Oh yeah, and my reading glasses, there they were on the desk by her chart.

"Whoa," says my patient, gently prying them from my grasp. "Those are're wearing yours!"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fat city!

A perfect Saturday morning for pancakes, cool and breezy, and I'm blowing off exercise class for a leisurely brunch.

Is it the coolness? The ambient humidity? Why is this batter so thick? Like bread dough thick. I add more buttermilk which briefly thins it out, then it gels back into a pasty goo. I add still a bit more liquid--cautiously, one teaspoon at a time as I'd once thinned a previous batch unto ruin--then I scrape three cakes-worth into the pan scarcely able to get the stuff off of the spoon.

My kids are way past pancake smiley faces, in fact neither one was even home for pancake anything. But listen, this plaster-of-pancake could've been sculpted into 3-D clowns at this point. Midway through cake one, I realize no one could eat two of these things and rise off the kitchen chair to tell about it. My husband graciously allows that "the consistency is atrocious."

Then he leaves his panbrick half-eaten and starts to put the ingredients away.

"Did you use heavy cream to make these pancakes?" he asks, holding up a half-empty quart of heavy whipping cream that looks suspiciously like the buttermilk container.

And I realize, with a literal lump in my stomach, that I've just put away nearly a half cup of real deal cream. Back to bed for a nap, too full for anything else.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Dying for a hamburger"

What a fascinating and highly readable book--when was the last time you raced through a non-fiction treatise?

Dr. Waldman and Ms. Lamb have written a winner, and I'm sorry to see it buried in the Amazon stacks without notice or acclaim. I don't even remember how I stumbled on this title but I'm glad I did. In the process of explaining how a hamburger may permanently alter your brain--for the worse--the authors take the reader through the history of cognition and aging as found in scientific textbooks, philosophy, and literature to prove that losing your marbles through the years is a relatively new phenomenon.

Then they move on to cannibalism, horrific neurodegenerative diseases, the germ theory of disease, the biology of prions, the evolving nature of the human diet, the complex relationship of humans to cattle, the meat-packing industry, and international food standards.

Consider the elegance of their explanation of misfolded proteins (the biological basis of neurodegenerative diseases) as seen in the common egg white:

"Imagine a large bowl of raw egg whites. These whites are made of a protein called albumin, which is folded in a unique way.. Because of its shape, this protein is a translucent liquid and can be dissolved in water, Now place a tiny amount of the egg whites in boiling water, where it cooks immediately. The protein is still albumin, but now it is a solid instead of a liquid...there is no way that the cooked egg whites can be made to revert to their uncooked state. All these changes happen because the protein is now folded in a different manner."

Want to better understand how you might possibly cook your brains with a misguided modern diet and the inattention of those to whom we entrust our food supply? Order one of Amazon's bargain-priced, used copies--this book is great food for thought.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Well maybe a backhoe...

Power Point slide at a continuing medical education conference I attended today:

"A Tough Road to Hoe"

Ho, ho, ho. Maybe the lecturer was too young to know her way down a row.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Were both our oars in the water?

I went out to lunch today with the mother of my daughter's boyfriend (if there's not a word for such a person in relationship to oneself, there should be!). She was in town for a convention, and it was high time that we bonded. We had a lovely talk over salmon salads and several cups of coffee.

After lunch, next agenda item was a trip to the art museum, but first stop was an urgent visit to the restroom there. While I was finishing up my business in the stall, I heard a woman singing. As we were the only ones in the room, I thought "Good lord she's singing in a public restroom." Simultaneous thoughts included "Are we old enough for that sort of thing?" and "That's something my mother would've done."

As I came out, H had a funny smile on her face and asked "Did you hear that?"

"You mean the singing?" I answered. "I thought it was you."

As I said this, I stuck my hands beneath the motion-activated faucet and it began to sing 'Row, row, row your boat' in a deep baritone. H stuck her hands back under the stream in her sink and a woman's voice chimed in, singing in a round along with the man in mine.

I kid you not. The sinks in the Denver Art Museum sing. And H and I bonded in a menopause moment of laughter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

At a lost for words at the dry cleaners?

Oh this was too rich to relegate to the comments section. I recently wrote a post about a hare-brained encounter with the kindly Korean lady at my local dry cleaners, and wondered therein how I could explain my 'menopause moment' to her lest she suspect I was losing my mind.

MidlifeMidwife came to my rescue with this language lesson:

"geng nyeon gi ga wa so, mi chyeot na bwa yo. shirl soo hes so yo "
Literally, "because of menopause I went crazy and made a mistake" More like I wasn't in my right mind because of menopause.
(sorry, couldn't resist, my son speaks Korean)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How's this for openers?

This menopause moment brought to you by Wendy, a blogger friend whose exploits rival mine; either neither one of us is losing it, or we both are!

I was walking round the neighbourhood this morning. The sun was out and the air was nice and warm. We still have snowbanks all around, but they are fast receding. Coming to a muddy ditch, I stopped to watch the fast-moving, icy-looking water, as it ran downhill towards the village.

Smiling and happy, I reach the end of my street, where our post-boxes stand like soldiers by the side of the road. Reaching into my coat pocket, I grasp my set of keys and nonchalantly push the button.
Nothing happens.
I push again.
Oh no!

Quickly, I look around. Nobody has seen me.
Fitting my key into the lock on my mailbox, I take out the day's mail.
I can't believe I just tried to open my mailbox with my car door opener!
And my car, of course is at home, sitting innocently in the garage.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Non-neurotic extraverts don't dement!

Just untangling the conclusions of this Swedish study was a brain workout in its own right, a downright 'how much wood would a woodchuck chuck..." sort of puzzle:

Neither high neuroticism nor low extraversion alone was related to significantly higher incidence of dementia. However, among people with an inactive or socially isolated lifestyle, low neuroticism was associated with a decreased dementia risk (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.27-0.96). When compared to persons with high neuroticism and high extraversion, a decreased risk of dementia was detected in individuals with low neuroticism and high extraversion (HR = 0.51, 95% CI = 0.28-0.94), but not among persons with low neuroticism and low extraversion (HR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.57-1.60), nor high neuroticism and low extraversion (HR = 0.97 95% CI = 0.57-1.65).(1)

Got it? So do we fret and socialize, stay home and calmly knit, or placidly go out drinking with our buddies? Don't freak out while you discuss this conundrum with your friends because, as you will see once you sort out the various possibilities here, being a Buddha of a buddy is your best bet for the brightest brain.
Wang, HX, et al.
Personality and lifestyle in relation to dementia incidence. Neurology. 2009 Jan 20;72(3):253-9.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Use it or lose it...

is now use it and grow some more.

We used to think is that what you got (in the way of neurons or nerve cells) was all you'd ever have. In fact, during the process of brain development in early of life, not only do millions of neurons migrate but also many die in the process of forming mature circuitry. Recent research, however, confirms that the process of neurogenesis or production of new nerve cells is alive and well in fully formed adult brains. The more we stimulate neural pathways, the more we spur on new growth in areas critical to cognition and memory.

One of our best features as successful actors in a challenging world is our ability to adapt to and learn from new experiences. Known as neural plasticity, this process involves both the generation of new neurons as well as novel hook-ups between the new and old cells in order to generate pathways capable of change and new behavior.

Scientists at the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins University have identified one step on the road to new brain cell development (albeit in mice)(1). Through an epigenetic process(2), they observed that nerve cells stimulated by brain activity--say the little mice were put in new environments which set their little mousy brains awhirl (Hmm, new stuff to climb, new things to sniff and eat, a brand new exercise wheel...)-- produced growth factors, thus stimulating the production of new neurons in the activated region.

One study that illustrates how this principle works in people as well as rodents was done by German scientists working with students learning to juggle. They performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on new jugglers three months into their studies and noted a 3% increase in brain matter in certain juggling-related areas of the brain. When the students quit their juggling lessons (perhaps out of frustration, or too much to do, or just persuaded by the researchers to watch TV instead of throwing balls around), those juggling-amplified gray matter regions shrank back to pre-juggling levels.

So carry on with those Thursday, Friday, and Saturday New York Times crossword puzzles, or acrostics, or your Saturday a.m. Spanish language lessons. All those sparks flying about your aging brain are generating new cells and new circuitry even in your later years.
1)Dengke, KM et al. Neuronal Activity-Induced Gadd45b Promotes Epigenetic DNA Demethylation and Adult Neurogenesis. Science Feb. 20, 2009, Vol 323 pp 1074-1077.

2)Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression without change in underlying DNA. In this study, electrical activation of mature neurons induced a gene called Gadd45b to produce growth factors which trickled out into the immediately surrounding brain tissue causing local generation of new neurons.

Another example of epigenetics is the misguided series of events that occurs due to overeating of the wrong sort of food coupled with undermoving in a couch potato sort of way resulting in the metabolic syndrome and ultimately diabetes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A clothes encounter of the bird(brained) kind

Halfway through the Jazzercise class, I remember with a start that I've forgotten to pick up the dry-cleaning. Dry-cleaning that is getting dangerously near that unclaimed, overdue point at which the facility donates it to charity. After class, I sort through my purse for the ticket, but alas, that is missing along with my brain. No problem, these nice cleaners know me by sight.

No, says the little Korean lady at the counter, there's no record of cleaning here for you. Are you sure, I ask, two men's jackets, one khaki one navy blue? No, she says, sorting through computer records and racks in the back. I'm wondering what to tell the owner of those jackets (who will not be pleased) when she announces, with triumph, you pick clothes up February 19th.

Oh heavens, how do you say menopause moment in Korean?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bye bye travel knit

Well it's a new me, more or less. I just gave most all of my Chico's travel knit collection to a patient who promises to sell them on E-Bay and split the proceeds with me. I know that many of you will want to check out this wonderful opportunity to get yesterday's middle-aged look while they're still available.

That said, I held back my favorite outfit--a pair of flowered red and green on black pants (that a 9th grade boy in our carpool six years ago told me were cool) with a red top and black jacket. All travel knit. All hot as hell on that warm February day last week, and all of which were heavy and static-filled. I thought I looked pretty righteous until I got out in the sunlight and noted 1) The black of the seldom worn jacket and the black of the oft-worn slacks were entirely different, 2) the pants were too short which, 3) showed off the horror of my mother's leftover black (different black yet again) socks.

Yes, even my mother had she been around to see this outfit, would have opined "Jude, those pants...those socks...look awful."

Stay tuned to E-Bay; the silly clown pants should debut soon.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Water, water, everywhere

I was chatting by phone with a friend yesterday afternoon. She was telling me about an albino squirrel that had gotten in her apartment, its quarrels with her aging cat, her reluctance to deal with it, her feelings of hapless victimhood. All in all, it was a saga worthy of Stephen King channeling Erma Bombeck but as long and rambling as The Stand.

So I decided to water my plants while interjecting the occasional "You're kidding?!?" to let her know I was still there. All was well with my multitasking until I became aware of sounds like rush hour in a men's urinal--water cascading from three or four over-saturated pots onto the tile floor below.

I guess I can no longer tend and attend--to plants and to conversations--at the same time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Forget to eat and improve your memory?

Fruit flies, threadworms, mice, and monkeys live longer when they are calorie deprived. The skinny silhouettes of old nonagenarians suggest that the same holds true for humans. Here's a small study that suggests brain benefits for those who underindulge.

German neurologists invited 50 overweight, aging Deutschelanders down to the lab for a diet trial with a twist. The subjects were, on average, sixty years old and a little overweight. Twenty of them reduced their calorie intake by 30% for three months, twenty ate the same number of calories but switched out their fats to the unsaturated variety, and ten motored on with no change at all.

At the start and the finish of the three month study, the subjects took a memory test that checked their ability to recall a 15 item word list after thirty minutes. The calorie-deprived group upped their scores post-dieting by 20% but the other groups had no better recall than when they began.

Could this mean that fewer calories enhances cognition? always, the researchers called for more research (and perhaps for more research grants).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Four Cups of Tea

Not so much a memory lapse as a lapse of consciousness. And who but a menopausal woman would nod off over a book in the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon?

In my defense, I was already 7,234 steps into the day. That included one Jazzercise 'Express' Class, a trip to Target, two loads of laundry, and vacuuming the entire upstairs plus the living room. So I felt entitled to a cup of tea at the kitchen table, feet up on another kitchen chair, and a moment with my current read "Three Cups of Tea."

My tea was still warm when my afternoon delight abruptly screeched to a halt as a half-dreaming jerk of the arm knocked that very cup of tea, nearly full, into my lap.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My cup runneth over, as doth my coffee pot...

Again. Dang, did it again, twice in as many months. Turned the coffee maker on, but alas, no carafe beneath. Went upstairs, checked e-mail, plucked my eyebrows a bit, found my watch, made the bed, and moseyed downstairs to the smell of burned coffee which had overflowed the basket, on to the hot plate, down the counter, into the canned soup department in the cupboard below, then on to the (fortunately) coffee-colored kitchen carpet. Good thing Mr. Denver Doc snoozed through it all, arriving finally in a freshly mopped kitchen none the wiser as to my morning moment.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Junked mail

don't read this post if you object to trash talk...

My husband shouted upt the stairs "Any mail today?"

"Oh yeah," I bellowed back, "It's on the counter."

"Which counter?"

Oh heavens, must I point out everything? "The kitchen counter, of course."

By now, I'm downstairs wondering how blind a soul can be. Alas, there on the kitchen counter is a small pile of catalogues and empty envelopes.

"You didn't throw it away, did you?"

What does he think I am anyway? "No, of course not," I said as I grabbed the kitchen trash bin and began to look through it.

Well...yeah...maybe I did...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Does this scene ring a bell?

Reality Man smirks as he finds the phone, then writes in to rat on Reality Woman:

Tobi will not be outdone. One of our portable phones went missing. The usual suspects--the dogs--could not be convicted. The "handset find" feature seemed to produce no sound--until this morning, when I, the non-menopausal SO, turned on the feature and wandered near the trash can, which was plaintively beeping. The menopausally-challenged one ascribed it to "overzealous" cleaning of her space.