Your Brain On Eggs

Your brain on eggs

Your brain on eggs

Eating a balanced diet is important at any age. My mother used to hand me words of wisdom like, “you are what you eat” and “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I guess that’s why I was never one to skip breakfast. One of the worst habits at any age, but even worse as we get older, is skipping breakfast. A cup of coffee won’t give you what you need. After all, breakfast is short for breaking the overnight fast.

For years and years I started my day eating eggs. However, after learning about my skyrocketing cholesterol numbers, I changed my eating habits to limit my egg consumption. Because they are believed to raise cholesterol in the body, eggs got a bad rap for many years. At one time, I totally eliminated eggs at breakfast for an entire six months. Instead I ate oat based cereals. Anticipating a lower cholesterol number, I was shocked when my doctor told me my number dropped only one teeny-tiny point over my previous six month blood test. I’m no scientist or nutritionist, but that piece of information made me wonder if all the hoopla over eggs was — well, just hoopla.

Despite my questioning, I continued to avoid eggs at breakfast. Instead, I ate cereal or an energy bar. I didn’t feel more energetic. In fact, by 11 a.m. my stomach started sending signals of hunger. I felt depleted, even tired.

Now, along comes a book I read, Rewire Your Brain by John B. Arden, Ph.D. It’s not a new book. The copyright is 2010. It was sitting in my to-be-read stack since 2014. While the book has a lot of technical information on how our brains work, Arden also offers up a chapter on “Fueling Your Brain”. Guess who is the breakfast heroine in this chapter — yup, you got it — the egg. There are lots of other foods we need and should eat to fuel our brains, but the morning egg, breaking the fast, carries a lot of weight.

Speaking of weight I, like many people, think about what I eat in terms of feeding my entire body and keeping my weight in check. Until reading Arden’s book I never really gave the specifics for fueling my brain a lot of thought (no pun intended). According to Arden, “A bad diet can have a major impact on the brain’s ability to function properly, making you less apt to think clearly, pay attention, and cultivate neuroplasticity.” As we know, these abilities are really, really important for aging well.

Memory is also important. Arden goes on to say, “One of the neurotransmitters you need for processing memory is called acetylcholine. Your body needs an amino acid called choline to manufacture acetylcholine. One source of choline is eggs.” While there are other sources of choline, the egg is the one for getting your brain off to a good start for the day. Remember, it’s been fasting all night long with the rest of your body.

As we age we also lose muscle. Protein builds muscle. Eggs are a good source of protein. Eggs are also a rich source of vitamins, including B vitamins like B12, essential for energy. Other vitamins are A, E and K plus riboflavin and folic acid. Exercise and a balanced diet can help keep our muscles in good working order.

After reading all this, I decided to try Arden’s suggestion of eating an egg (using a no-stick spray), a piece of whole wheat toast (sans butter), and a glass of orange juice for breakfast. It took about a week for me to start feeling more energy. I noticed I can go until noon or later without feeling hungry. Since mornings are when I write, I realized I was mentally sharper. And, I sleep more soundly. This is my brain on eggs.

What about the cholesterol?  At last count a couple of weeks ago, despite my breakfast egg, my cholesterol is down 44 points!!!  Obviously, I’ve made a lot of other changes to my diet in the last year.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that this level of egg consumption may actually prevent some types of strokes.” They go on to say, the risk of heart disease is more closely tied to the saturated and trans fats used to cook the eggs than the eggs themselves.  As always, you should check with your doctor about your egg consumption as, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is not recommended if you have certain diseases, such as diabetes.

Whether or not an egg a day is good for you is up to you and your doctor to decide. For me, I’m continuing my breakfast egg routine.   Regardless of what you eat in the morning, make sure you do eat to break the fast and fuel your brain and body. That’s essential for living well and aging dynamically.

Money Blown

While I received a lot of positive comments on last week’s post, “What’s Your Relationship With Money?”, I also received more negative comments than in the last 3 years combined, including some very personal dings at me. Why? It seems some people see ‘blow money’ as money blown.  I stand by my belief that blow money is important and here’s why.

Blow money is simply my term for my and Martin’s personal allowances. It could just as easily be called allowance money, retirement enjoyment money, don’t want to be on my deathbed with regrets money, bucket list money, hobby money, exercise money, good health money, leisure money, entertainment money or anything else I decide to call it.

In life, I’m a planner. We also planned money for an occasional new car. We planned money for vacations. Some people may see those items as wasted money. When Martin and I reviewed our retirement resources and budget with the financial planners, it included a line item for personal allowances. If calculating our numbers showed us having enough money to take us into our nineties, blow money, inflation and all, there is no reason to forego a personal allowance.

Money blown

Money blown?

Martin spends most of his blow money on bicycle and motorcycle gear. As someone bicycling 80 to a 100 miles per week, he’s put nearly 8,786 miles on his current bicycle. Yes, he loves bicycling so much he keeps a log of the miles he does each week, weather and any other conditions, which affect his time.

Money blown or money well spent

Money well spent

He is in such great physical shape, with a resting heart rate of 52 beats per minute, that a medical doctor friend once joked, “With a heart like that, you’ll live forever!” We all know that’s not true, but it points out just one of the benefits of bicycling. Money blown on bicycle gear? It’s cheaper than a heart attack, which can easily run into the six figures and kill you! I love my husband and want him to stick around as long as possible. Money well spent.

Much of my blow money is spent on my gardens. I never met a plant I didn’t like _ well, maybe poison ivy. Not only does gardening keep me in good physical condition, the garden is my goto place for stress relief. After a tough day at work, there was nothing like coming home to a beautiful garden to relax or dig in the dirt. When I’m tending my gardens, I feel like I’m doing God’s work, taking care of nature and providing a place for birds, bees and butterflies to flourish. I also spent $300 on the Clemson University Master Gardener Program, so I could learn more about gardening and pass that information on to others in my community as a Program volunteer. Money blown on gardening and volunteering? Money well spent.

Money well spent

Money well spent

I also spend my blow money on an occasional lunch out with friends. While some may see this as a waste of money to eat out, I see it as nurturing my relationships with my support group. As we age social interaction becomes increasingly important at a time when we may have fewer opportunities to socialize.

According to the Rochester University Medical Center, the benefits of strong social ties include:

1. Potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, some cancers, cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis;

2. Lower blood pressure; and

3. Reduced risk of mental health issues such as depression.

Many of the people I socialize with are long time friends, but some are also more recent friends encountered in art and writing classes _ more blow money expenditures. Money blown breaking bread with friends? Money blown taking classes to open new neural pathways and meet new people? Money well spent.

Money well spent

Money well spent

As we age, keeping our bodies strong, our minds sharp and our social network alive are important not only to our longevity but also our quality of life. Martin and I live an amazing retirement life filled with activities we enjoy, good friends, old and new, and a healthy, happy marriage. While we enjoy a lot of activities together such as hiking, cooking and art, we are not joined at the hip. We go our separate ways for many other activities and blow money helps us do that without infringing on joint items in our budget. We have no disagreements over money!  Money blown on a harmonious relationship?  Money well spent.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a budget line item that includes a personal allowance, even if you are single. As one of my wise readers pointed out, a budget gives us the permission to spend without the fear of spending too much. After all, what’s the point of saving all this money if you don’t get to enjoy your retirement? I personally don’t want to be at death’s door and say, “Gee, I wish I’d taken that art class or gone out to lunch with my friends more often.”

Money blown? Money well spent!


Zen Masters

Zen Masters

My cats sleep about twenty hours a day _ no kidding. I call them the Zen Masters because even when they are not sleeping, they’re often curled up or stretched out in total relaxation.  I used to sleep solidly even with a high stress job and kids to raise. As I aged, however, a good night’s sleep often eluded me. In a quest for sleep, I read many, many articles about the subject and even talked to my doctor about it. Finally arriving at a good night’s sleep again took a lot of effort on my part.

I found there are no magic answers to getting to sleep at night and staying asleep all night long. It’s personal.  What works for me may not work for you.  According to several articles I read, as we age changes in our sleep patterns are normal. Before you can take action, it’s important to understand why you’re not sleeping well.

Here’s the starter.  As we age, we produce less growth hormone, which is one of the body’s chemicals used to create deep sleep. We may become more sedentary. Less daily activity and exercise impact our ability to sleep. We may also be taking medications that interfere with our sleep patterns. Depression, loneliness, mental stress and physical pain can lead to sleeplessness. Ahhhh _ the vagaries of aging.

For me, despite sleeping through life’s normal stress in my younger years, stress played a large role in my inability to stay asleep all night. As you know from reading these pages, the transition from forty years of full-time work to retirement was a tough change for me. That stress kept me awake wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. By the time I figured out the answer to that question, my brain was in the habit of staying awake in bed. Now that became the source of my stress _ how to sleep at night.

My doctor didn’t offer up drugs to help me sleep, but did suggest maybe I woke up because I had to use the bathroom. No, that wasn’t it.  However, if that’s a problem for you, limiting fluids about two hours before bedtime may help. From what I’ve read, the medical community often prescribes sleep aids short term to kickstart the habit of sleeping through the night. Apparently, whether it’s a prescription or over-the-counter, sleeping pills are not a good idea as they have side effects and don’t address the root of the problem. For example, some can be habit forming. Others may leave you groggy the next day.  According to my doctor, better to get to sleep naturally.

In order to sleep, you must be relaxed. Think of the Zen Masters. In my younger days, after a stressful day, I’d sip a cup of warm milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon before going to bed. I also rubbed almond oil laced with lavender oil on the soles of my feet.  So, I resurrected those forgotten rituals.

Never one to have a TV in the bedroom, at least I didn’t have to contend with that issue. However, I did sit in bed and read. Sometimes I even read on my tablet. Apparently, the backlit screen is not a good thing to look at just before bedtime because it is similar to morning light, fooling the brain into thinking it’s time to wake up. So, I broke that habit. I also moved the brightly lit clock on the night stand and bought drapes with a black out lining, putting them over the window shades. I live in the country but landscape lights and even a full moon cast light into the room. A dark room is necessary for sleep.

To get my brain back into the habit of bedroom as sleep room, if I couldn’t sleep, I got up and went to another room until I felt sleepy again. I’d hang out with the cats, who left their various sleeping places to join me.

When I started paying attention to what woke me at night, I realized I was too warm. I was roasting while Martin needed an extra blanket in winter. In order to make the bedding comfortable for both of us, we put a small throw on top of his side of the bed. That made all the difference for me. Cooler is apparently better when it comes to sleeping well.

I eliminated high action TV shows along with horror stories, murder mysteries and the like, whether on the tube or in a book. Nothing disturbing or adrenaline pumping before bedtime, just light subjects, easily tossed aside in favor of sleep.

As you’ll recall, I took up walking, walking, walking about a year ago. Even though I’ve always been active, the increased daily activity added to my ability to de-stress, relax and feel truly tired at bedtime. I also believe my change in diet, cutting back on heavy dinners, also helped me sleep better.

While a good night’s sleep rarely eludes me these days, I’m continuing the good habits I developed so it will hopefully stay this way. Identifying sleep problems takes time and effort. But, it’s worth it. As we age a good night’s sleep may be even more important to our long term health than it was when we were younger.

With a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling more like a Zen Master every day.

Beating The Winter Blues

Felted Hearts

Felted Hearts

Yesterday, as I sat with a knitting group watching snow flurries drift past the window, some of us mentioned how we were ready for spring. I live in South Carolina so whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, come February, spring is just around the corner. By the time we get to Valentine’s Day daffodils and other early spring bulbs are beginning to break bud, flocks of robins land in the fields looking for nibbles and the trees give off a red glow as leaf buds swell. But, everything is relative. At the risk of sounding whiney, I still have a bit of the winter blues.

When I lived north of the Mason Dixon Line where winters are truly harsh with piles of snow and winter temps sometimes dipping into negative numbers, February 14th marked my personal turning point toward spring. I looked forward to it every year. My mood lightened as the sun sat higher in the sometimes clear sky, the days grew longer, snow easily melted off the roof and a crocus or two began to poke up through the snow. Many, many years ago a doctor suggested I have a mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If that’s the case, I would venture I’m far from alone.

While winter is often seen as a time of death, it is, in fact, a time for regeneration. As Jean of ( recently observed in her post The Beauty of Winter Trees “dormancy should not be confused with death.” As Jean points out, the trees are shutting down to survive the harsh winter environment but it is more of a restorative sleep.  Like the trees, I found that approaching winter as a time to re-energize helped me survive the winter blues with a happier disposition. These are the things I do to stave off the doldrums.

1. As I shoveled snow off the driveway and sidewalks of our Michigan home, I discovered the outside activity actually put me in a happier mood. So, even if you don’t feel like getting outside in the cold, refrain from becoming a winter couch potato. I bundle up and go out for a walk, clean up garden debris and work on clearing underbrush from our overgrown woods.

2. Look at winter as a time to work on inside projects. I spend more time reading, writing, painting and knitting. I declutter and reorganize. I get the taxes done early! I listen to music, watch movies I’ve been wanting to see and play with the cats. I start seeds for the spring garden. This has changed my view of winter. It’s a time to catch up on delayed projects and put your house in order. Then, when spring arrives, you can get outside and play.

3. Cheer up your space. I fill clear vases with things like origami hearts I make or found feathers or sea shells or dried botanicals from my garden. I force bulbs or branches of flowering bushes like forsythia or bring in a bunch of hellebores blooming in the garden.  I make felted hearts of various cheery colors.

4. Stay socially active. I look forward to winter classes at OLLI, meeting friends for lunch or dinner or inviting them to my house and going to group activities like Sit n’ Knit, where we socialize more than anything else. Volunteer or help out a friend in need. Last week I helped a friend with their blog _ it made me feel good to lend a hand.

5. I stopped saying, “I hate winter!” Instead, I look at winter as an opportunity to do all of the above. I also look at it as time to peer inside me and contemplate, meditate and just be.

You may have some ways you beat the winter blues. Let me know if you have other suggestions. In the meantime, the sun sits higher in the sky, the days are lengthening, the buds are swelling and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. No matter where you are, no matter what your winter, no matter if you have the blues, the blahs or not, Happy Valentine’s!

Taming The Wolves


Earlier in the week I attended an event where the guest speaker was a financial markets analyst. His presentation was on, what else, but the economy. While he didn’t tell us anything we couldn’t already read in the news, putting it all together in one place did result in an anxious vibe in the room. The stock and bond markets were flat in 2015. Now the stock market was taking a downward turn. Oil is less than $30 a barrel resulting in gas prices last seen in January 2009. And the oil price decline appears to be influencing global market declines. China has devalued its currency, which affects the global economy. And, we are waiting for the Federal Reserve’s next announcement on monetary policy after raising rates slightly last fall, which may not have been a good move. After delivering all of this unsettling news, he cautioned against allowing anxiety to get the best of us with an emotional sell off of assets in a bid to curtail losses.

Never one to worry too much about falling markets, always one to believe in a buy and hold strategy, I can still sleep at night despite the gloomy market news. My dates with anxiety always hit closer to home. Things like a leaking dishwasher or a mistake on a medical bill are more likely to drive me nuts. While worrying about these things spurs me into action, it has also been known to raise my blood pressure and cause sleepless nights, neither of which is good for my health.

Whether it’s an economic decline or a leaky dishwasher, we all have situations that trigger anxiety. Worry is a survival response. Thousands of years ago, when faced by hungry wolves, anxiety triggered our flight or fight response. If we weren’t worried about the wolves, we were really, really unlikely to survive. Life still isn’t a walk in the park, but we often over think and then over react emotionally to life events.

After dealing with a high stress level at watching buckling hardwood in my water drenched kitchen, I decided to do something about my anxiety. Although I probably always knew this, it took a month of mind spinning over the outcome for me to realize my worst fears almost never come true. Thirty days of worrying as the new dishwasher was installed, the hardwood turned up at the edges and my ever handy husband put weight on the floor to straighten the boards, was enough to give me the screaming me-me’s. I was so sure the hardwood in that section was ruined, we’d have to replace the entire floor and it was going to cost a fortune, not to mention the mess to the house. Instead, the floor dried out nicely. The boards miraculously went back to their original shape, to the point where you can’t even tell we endured this minor disaster.

Fear of the unknown and our mind’s creation of the worst possible outcome all conspire to take us to that anxious dark place called worry. The first thing to do is acknowledge our worry as in, “Yes, I’m worried about this, but I’m going to stay present and not let my imagination take control.”

There are a number of things you can do to stay in the present moment. Mindfulness does work. Making a mental effort to stay aware of your current moment in time, your surroundings, the sights, smells, sounds and even tastes takes your focus off the future, the unknown. Use your senses to remain conscious of the now.

Another strategy I use is to focus on something which requires concentration. This is simply an extension of the idea of mindfulness. I find that writing or drawing does the trick. It’s really hard for me to keep spinning worst case scenarios in my mind if I have to concentrate on shapes and lines in a drawing. You might try reading a book or listening to music or working on one of your hobbies. You might also immerse yourself in your volunteer work. Helping someone in need is a sure way to take your mind off your own worries.

Another step to eliminating worry is finding something physical to engage in like taking a walk or riding a bike. I go outside to my garden where there’s always work to be done. There, I deadhead flowers, pull weeds or clip bushes. It’s hard to worry when you are breathing in fresh air, enjoying the sun shine and keeping your hands and mind busy. Physical labor also helps me sleep better regardless of what’s happening in my life. And, we all need a good night’s rest.

I also try a little meditation. Admittedly, I’m only good for 5 or so minutes, but that’s enough to let the stress into your mind and then release it to clear your mind. Accepting your feelings and thoughts of worry sometimes is all it takes to free yourself of the anxiety. If not, don’t be too hard on yourself. Chastising yourself for worrying is just adding more negativity. Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t worry about this. You’re being silly” say something like, “It’s O.K. to worry now and then.” Let the feelings come in, accept them.
Whether you’re worried about the wolves of the financial markets or the one in your kitchen, taking constructive, specific steps may not completely tame the beast, but will help you survive with a better quality of life. Using my goto phrase of, “It is what it is” often allows me to move on. That phrase is one of acceptance of the situation, which puts me in a frame of mind to just be. I can let it be, let it go, take a breath and move on. With time, the future will take care of itself. And, my worst fears will likely not come to fruition. Whatever happens, it is what it is.


Today, there is a growing movement centered on being aware of, and staying with, the present moment. It is called mindfulness. Each time I hear the term, it reminds me that as a child, whenever I was going to a party or a friend’s house, my mother said, “Be sure to mind your manners.” She was telling me to pay attention to my behavior. Remember to be polite. Be aware of how you act. Mindfulness is simply an extension of what my mother was expecting from me. It’s paying attention to what is happening in your surroundings and within you at the present moment. It is staying with your current experience including all your sensory perceptions and emotions. It is remembering to stay present instead of letting your mind wander off into the past or future. It is being aware. I call it living consciously. While this concept has been around for centuries and is steeped in the Buddhist practice of meditation, it serves a real purpose in our stress filled, frenetic modern world. If we stay present, instead of mind-spinning about the past, which is non-changeable or the future, which has yet to unfold itself, we can eliminate much of the stress we, ourselves, create in our lives.

I first heard of mindfulness a year ago when I was taking the Dynamic Aging Program at Furman University. We touched on the subject as it relates to aging. While most people start out believing retirement will be stress free as they leave the workplace behind, they soon find there is stress in retirement. We just encounter different stressors from what stressed us while working. Instead of deadlines, office politics and not enough time for family or ourselves retirement stressors may include health concerns, finances, 24/7 with our spouse or significant other or too many requests to volunteer for organizations. Once I understood the concept and practice of mindfulness, I also realized I had flirted with the idea for years. During my most hectic years of working, being a wife and mother, volunteering in the community, I knew I either had to stop dancing as fast as I could or go down in flames. I chose to slow dance, become more focused on what was important to me and stop trying to be super woman. In a nutshell, I chose to become more choosy. As a result I stopped being a leaf in the wind, buffeted by other people and self-imposed commitments. I stopped living unconsciously. I started living fully awake and aware of what I was doing and why. I became more mindful.

Last Friday I took a mindfulness seminar at Furman. Our coach, Brenda Verdone (, is an energetic and engaging woman who takes mindfulness beyond meditation and into our everyday lives. The two-hour session was interactive as we explored how to use mindfulness in our daily activities to ward off stress, restore health and well-being, and create a balanced life style. While I am already practicing much of what Brenda taught us, I also learned a few things. We started out learning how to breath. That’s right – breath. How to inhale a breathe so the air reached all the way down to our diaphragm. With hands on our bellies, we then exhaled fully and slowly, counting the seconds, and paused, which is natural, before taking the next breathe. We do this involuntarily right? Perhaps when we are calm but what about when we are stressed? The old flight or fright goblin causes quick, shallow breaths taken in and let out of the lungs in such a hurry we don’t get enough oxygen to our other organs. Sometimes we may be so stressed we do this unconsciously, unaware that we are robbing our bodies of much needed oxygen. Quite some time ago my doctor told me that most of the people in hospitals are there because of stress, which causes inflammation to the body and leads to various diseases. We are so stressed out in our fast-paced world that we are killing ourselves!

Besides how to breath with awareness of our bodies, Brenda went on to talk about relationships, recreation, communication and even mindful eating, drinking water and posture. You may remember I took up mindful eating with the assistance of the My Fitness Pal APP in order to lose 18 pounds. It took me about 30 days to form my new eating habit, which made a huge change in my health, most notably avoiding diabetes. The APP helped me to eat mindfully, to be aware of what I put in my mouth as well as when, where and why I was eating. Being mindful in all aspects of your life can provide immeasurable benefits as we age. Brenda laid out six areas of life along with some questions to ask yourself about each area. I’m sharing this with you here. Exploring each area and answering the questions will help create a balanced, harmonious lifestyle. Honesty with yourself, of course, is necessary. Ditto for taking action.


Spiritual – Peace of Mind
Physical Health
Relationships with Family and Friends
Life Purpose
Financial Stability


Do I feel satisfied in this area of my life?
Is this area in balance with all others, or is it too much or not enough?
Is this an area I’m equipped to handle myself or do I need someone to guide me? (i.e. clergy, teacher, holistic wellness consultant, interpersonal relations counselor, financial advisor, trainer/instructor)
Where would I like to be in this area one year from now?
What do I need to get or do in order to move forward in this area?
When am I going to do it?

While this may strike some of you as more New Age nonsense, which has come and gone over the last several decades, it is one tool for getting your retirement life on track. Mindfulness is by no means a cure-all for everything which may ail you. But, it is my personal experience that balancing out all aspects of your life can create a feeling of harmony thus removing a good deal of stress. Being mindful of what you are doing, why you are doing it and where the benefit is to you, will help you crystallize your retirement purpose. This can lead you to a happier, more fulfilling retirement lifestyle. If you have not given mindfulness a try, now is the time. Let me know if it helps! Or, even if it doesn’t.


Wanting to stay healthy as I aged, a couple of years ago I decided to walk off my extra weight. In my younger days, I enjoyed a svelte figure. I ran three miles every other day and lifted weights on the off days. But, as I aged, knee problems gave way to a more sedentary life style. I started to pack on the pounds. So two years ago, already walking a mile six days a week, I thought, “Just work up to two miles and voila, the weight will come off.” The best laid plans, right? I didn’t reach the two mile goal and even gained a few more pounds. So, when my wakeup call came from my doctor last fall, it was really no surprise. My glucose numbers were up. The sugar number was high enough to garner a warning from my doctor to get it down or risk diabetes and meds. Did I get serious then? Uh…no, not really. As is human nature, I rationalized. You know the kind of self talk I engaged, telling myself it was part of aging, this happens to everybody, something’s going to get you.  Well, serious finally arrived in March. When one of my nieces posted on Facebook how she lost 30 pounds using an App on her phone, I was intrigued. In her updated photo, she looked fabulous, healthy, glowing. How could an App help someone lose weight? You know I like technology, but don’t pay much attention to Apps. For starters, I didn’t quite understand their purpose. But, like I said, I was intrigued. So, I took a look at the App, downloaded the free version and started figuring out how to use it. Aside from the 15 pounds I lost and my now normal glucose numbers, along the way I learned a few things about myself and aging.

Remember the old advice from your work days about putting goals in writing. Some business management gurus of the day even wrote about writing it all down, one year, three year and five year goals. Well, writing it down was good advice. Inserting goals, logging into the App every day and having my progress stare me in the face, incentivized me to push harder. So hard, in fact, there are days when I logged nearly 6 miles walking! Two and a half miles is now my bare minimum. As someone who does a lot of physical activity gardening, bush whacking and hiking, one would think I was already at the top of my game. Uh…that’s another no. When I really started pushing myself in a way reminiscent of my younger days, I realized I was more of a mosey along type, not really getting my heart rate up high enough to get the most benefit out of burning the fat. Telling myself I was in better shape for my age than most, I complacently let the bum knee, weight and aging keep me from putting out my very best effort. After slipping into a good pair of walking shoes last March, my lower legs and feet still hurt so much, I did my usual web surfing in search of an answer. I learned I needed extra inserts to support my sagging arches, part of the aging body territory. The extra supports worked! And, as the weight started to slide off and my muscles strengthened, the bum knee turned out to be a non-issue. I learned aging means my body, not my mind, will tell me when I need to slow down, when it’s had enough. Sure, I don’t have the stamina I did at 30 but, with a little help from arch supports and stretching I can still chug it out at my personal best rate.

And, then there’s food. Yup. That little App told me how many calories I could have every day in order to reach my goal weight losing just one pound a week. I wanted a healthy loss and, naturally, of course, I didn’t want to deprive myself. After plugging in all my data, shock, surprise…what do you mean I can only have 1,730 calories a day?!!! The exercise got me extra calories but not as much as you might think. On an outstanding walking day of thousands of steps and miles and miles, this stingy little App only lets me have an extra 180 or so calories. As my niece said, “The App helps me make better food choices.” (Thanks, Stacy.) And, it did. Again and again, I looked like deer in headlights as I scanned items like peanut butter into my App only to see how my favorite peanut butter on english muffin breakfast is loaded with fat. And, since when does black coffee have calories? This was definitely a learning experience! It took about a month for my body to adjust to the calorie intake.  I knew I made it the night I realized less than 2,000 calories a day was actually a lot of food.  It filled me up. Yes, I am sick of salads with grilled chicken for lunch. Once in a while I have a sandwich or a turkey with green beans Lean Cuisine to break the monotony. I only eat potato, rice or pasta twice a week. But, also, as my niece says, “I don’t deprive myself.” Desserts are still something I enjoy. Last night a cup of fresh raspberries with a teeny (and I mean teeny weeny) scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Fro-Yo hit the spot. I eat four to five cups of fruits and vegetables a day. So long high glucose numbers! Recently, I gained nearly 2 pounds on a trip to Michigan. Yes, I definitely fell off the wagon, eating, drinking and lazing around all too much during that week. With my new, improved metabolism, those extra pounds just melted off during the following week after my return to what is now my normal diet and exercise.

That’s how a little App helped me lose weight and learn a lot about myself and aging. Aging doesn’t mean getting heavy and sedentary. It means making adjustments to a changing body the same way we make adjustments to other things in our lives. It means making an all out effort to be your personal best.  I can’t eat the way I once did and not pay a price for my bad habits. I also don’t have the stamina and young, pliable body that can take a pounding. But, I’m still here. And, I can still do plenty. Staying healthy and strong as I age is up to me…with a little help from MyFitnessPal App.


Why people assume certain attitudes always intrigues me. That, of course, is one of the reasons I chronicle the impact mindset has on aging and, in particular, aging well. Following that thought, about a year ago I read an article from the Pew Research Center on “Older Adults and Technology Use” ( While the article cites a lot of statistical information about how older adults (categorized as 65 and older) use technology, the brief paragraph about attitude stands out for me. According to the article, aside from physical challenges like reading small print, and learning to use the technology, some older adults don’t believe there is a benefit to using it. Well, of course, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know I’m not so sure that’s the entire story.

Doing a little informal research of my own, I began paying close attention when I heard an older adult say, “Oh, I hate technology!” I did my usual eavesdropping on complete strangers. And, sometimes I inserted myself in the conversation, asking a few questions to satisfy my mental inquiry on the subject. I was probably a real pain to some of those people, especially when I asked them if they liked their car or their washer or their TV. I got a lot of blank stares. You see, people don’t think of those things as technology or even new technology. Because they have had lots of gadgets in their lives for so many decades, they expect to continue using them and expect to continue learning how to use the new versions when the old ones wear out. But, when it comes to computers, smart phones, social networking, email, texting, downloading music or books, or…enter the sci-fi of yesterday…Skyping, there is resistance from a certain segment of older adults. Like most people, when there’s something I really don’t want to do, even when I know I should do it, I become exceedingly proficient at finding excuses not to do whatever it is. My imagination can conjure up the best of them. That is just human nature. We can create obstacles where there really aren’t any hurdles at all. Hurdles like small print, when using a tablet like the iPad with zoom out technology will instantly make the print larger. Hurdles like learning how to use the new technology when classes, most of them free of charge, are offered by the vendors and manufacturers of the new technology, not to mention senior centers and local colleges and technology clubs.



Then, there’s the catchall of ‘no benefit’ to using new technology. That’s the attitude, the mindset shunning the entire package of new gadgets, no further questions or comments necessary, thank you. That’s also the part, which does not compute with me. How can something, which has so transformed our very way of life on this entire planet, have no-o-o-o benefit for a segment of our aging population? And, if they have shunned it, never immersed themselves in its use, how can they determine it has no benefit? It reminds me of the authoritarian Dad who, when confronted with a child wanting to try something new, spouts, “No!” to the poor kid before the request fully leaves their lips. If the child dares to query, “Why?”, Dad then blurts out, “Cause I said so, that’s why!”. Based on my non-scientific research, it seems like those who think all this new tech stuff has no benefit, probably never gave it a proper chance. For example, when I hear grandparents say they have no use for Facebook or Skype or text messaging, I wonder if they realize they are depriving themselves of a closer relationship with their grandchildren, especially if said grandchildren are miles away. No grandchildren? Well, then, children, siblings, aging parents, cousins, nieces, nephews or old friends. Even if no other benefit existed for immersing myself in new technology, the benefit of being able to engage with my grandkids nearly 800 miles north is benefit enough for me to put forth the effort necessary to figure out the technology. My two daughters do a superb job of posting videos and pictures of their children so I don’t miss football, softball or volleyball games or track meets or birthday parties or holidays. And, I can share my daily happenings with them. We Skype or FaceTime for special occasions. Amazing! It sure beats just sending a card or gift or saying, “Happy birthday” over the phone. How can you not love that?!!! And, it’s great to text a grandchild with a sentiment or attaboy but it is even better to get an “I love you, too” in return.

Speaking of kids, young people today are no different, than we were at a young age. Why, when we were young, we embraced new ideas and things to do every single day of every single week. We learned to use the technology of the day with anticipation and excitement. We didn’t think twice about benefits. It was simply what our world was doing and we wanted to be part of our world. Remember learning to drive? Was it a stick shift or an automatic? Remember the first TV at your house? How about when more than a few TV stations joined the lineup and you got a remote with the TV? You were older then, but you figured it out. Yet, as we age, we decide to play ‘old dog can’t be taught new tricks’. Well, old dog, here’s why you absolutely must keep learning new technology. The biggest benefit to learning about and using new technology is it helps keep your mind younger, sharper, more supple so you’ll be around to see even more technological advances and learn to use them. Remember, a few posts back I said learning new things opens new neural pathways in the brain. New neural pathways are necessary for maintaining brain health. You cannot find a more significant benefit than maintaining your brain health. So, don’t go closing your mind to using new technology. Who knows? Maybe you’ll stay sharp enough to see your extended family extend even further into the future. And, that’s a real benefit.


Are you happy? There seems to be a lot of attention given to this question. There are blogs, books and podcasts on the subject. Writer Gretchen Rubin ( has made a multi-million dollar career out of how to get to your happy place. There are research projects on why some of us are happy and other people are not so happy. In keeping with the current pursuit of the question of happiness, the “Are you happy?” question was asked of us during the Dynamic Aging course I took recently. We were directed to the University of Pennsylvania’s website on Authentic Happiness ( to take some interesting, fun and mostly short tests to reveal our happiness quotient. The results also included where we rank with others who took the test and happen to live in our particular zip code.

I’ve never thought of myself as being happier than other people. But, my results revealed how I was happier than most, giving way to much thought on my part as to whether this was really true or not. One of the tests, which points to the reason for my specific level of happiness, is the test of optimism, where I rank exceptionally high when it comes to looking ahead to a positive outcome during a negative event. Since some of my most dismal life failures have been the catalyst for my most outstanding successes, hope springs eternal in my mind and spirit. Think Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With The Wind… “After all, tomorrow is another day” or Little Orphan Annie belting out “tomorrow, tomorrow”. One of my favorite sayings is, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” and for good reason. So, an apparent must-have for a happy life is optimism.

If you want to stay optimistic, try surrounding yourself with like minded people. Many years ago, I made the decision that just because someone knocks on my life’s door, it doesn’t mean I have to open it up and let them in. I steer clear of the toxic influences. And, periodically, I have to clean house. If I can’t completely eliminate the influence, then I at least make every effort to minimize time spent with that person. You know the type of person I’m talking about. The one who never smiles let alone laughs. Any sense of humor eludes them because they are too busy focusing on all the negatives in life, including events around the world, over which they have little or no control. While I want to be aware of what’s going on in the world, a steady diet of murder and mayhem can have an adverse effect on attitude and outlook. The spring of eternal hope may be put in jeopardy of drying up. On the other hand, reading an upbeat blog like self-described ‘happiness bully’ Gretchen Rubin’s may actually help you to arrive at your happy place.

All of us experience negative, sad or unpleasant moments in life such as the recent passing of my father-in-law. Losing a loved one can definitely be a depressing experience. However, if you are a generally happy person, going through an unpleasant or negative experience, doesn’t make you a generally unhappy person. It makes you a person who is feeling down about a particular event not your entire life. Although it was sad to see my father-in-law pass, I still have all the other wonderful people in my life, who make me smile and enjoy life. In this example, they provide comfort and solace as do certain activities like working in my garden or writing for this blog. During a tough moment in time, counting your blessings or keeping a gratitude journal can act as a reminder that your glass is really half full instead of half empty. Focusing on all the good things in your life is a great way to prevent yourself from becoming the old sourpuss described in the previous paragraph.

So, the three things I do to promote my happiness are:

Remain optimistic even during adversity;
Surround myself with positive people, information and activities; and
Count my blessings.

While you have to set up an account to access the testing on the University of Pennsylvania Authentic Happiness site and the results are retained for the University’s research, it is well worth it to obtain some insight about your happiness and a few other things like character strengths and optimism. I would love to hear from you, even if you don’t take the tests, about whether you think you are happy or not and/or what you think keeps you in your happy place. Let me know. Are you happy?


Ahhhhh…retirement. Free at last from the stress of the workplace. No more stressing over meeting deadlines, competing for promotions or absorbing yet another policy change. No more training sessions for a new job and you better get it right or the boss won’t be happy with you. No more demanding co-workers, supervisors or customers to face every work day. Life will, instead, be a perpetual weekend or better yet, a vacation.

During the last two years I’ve met several people who retired earlier than planned due to the stress of being in the workplace. Stress happens when people can’t take one more thing. As the pressures pile up, they feel a lack of control. Overwhelmed. Many, many years ago I read how the administrative assistant of the company CEO is under more stress than the CEO because the assistant has less control over their day. The CEO is the person at the helm, calling all the shots, and, therefore, feeling more in control. After all, the CEO gets to tell their assistant and everyone else in the company what to do, when to do it, how to do it. And, the employees aren’t necessarily told why they are doing it…just get the job done! Their perception is a lack of control while the CEO enjoys the perception of control. The idea of leaving all of that pressure behind as you enter retirement is, indeed, enticing. It’s also just another perception as the pressures of work are replaced by new pressures in retirement.

What would we have to stress over in retirement? Well, to the surprise of even those of us who believe we have enough money, the number one stressor is money. That constant feeling of insecurity lurking just below the surface of everything we do, as we check our portfolio, watch the ups and downs of the stock market and ponder our choice of financial advisor, is stress. A close second to money is our health. Some of us retired due to health issues, some of which may be the result of stress in the workplace. My doctor has said most illnesses are the result of inflammation in the body brought on by stress. Or you may have retired in excellent health only to be diagnosed with an unexpected condition such as diabetes, heart disease or even cancer. Then, there are other people. Other people, it seems, is the number one stressor for the population overall and yes, other people are still a stressor in retirement. Heck, you may even find yourself stressed out by your spouse. After spending a lifetime apart during most days, to suddenly be together 24/7 may be overwhelming at first. But, remember, you are ‘other people’ to someone, which means you are someone else’s stressor. And, then, there’s the big question of, “What am I going to do that has meaning and purpose for the rest of my life?”

There is no such thing as a stress-free retirement just the same as there is no such thing as a stress-free workplace or a stress-free life. Toward the end of one Dynamic Aging class, our instructor brought in a stress coach, Donna Donnelly, to talk to us about stress as we aged. An enthusiastic and fun presenter, Donna not only provided lots of insight into the stress conundrum but infused the class with laughter. Laughter, it turns out, along with sex, is a major de-stressor as the extra oxygen produced goes to the brain. Extra oxygen is part of the relaxation response of deep breath from the abdomen, smile, relax. With the invention of the MRI, we now know these activities light up both sides of the brain. They increase T-cells, which boost our immune system, helping us to fight off disease as we age. Smiling cuts down on stress. The brain knows when you smile because the corners of your mouth turn up and your lips part a bit. Your brain likes that warm fuzzy feeling smiling evokes and releases neuropeptides, which fight stress. If you’re not used to smiling, guess what? According to Donna, if you aren’t a smiler by nature, stick a pencil in your mouth, cross wise, of course, and your brain will register that as a smile! Sound silly? If you imagine seeing people walking around with pencils in their mouths as they go about their day, it probably is, but, then again, just the thought of that image can put a smile on your face…sans pencil.

Besides smiling, here are a few other things you can do to reduce stress, many of which you probably know but now is the time to practice them, if you’re not already:

1. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal, taking time at the end of each day to name the things you are grateful for in that day. It could be as simple as seeing a rose bloom in your garden or taking a walk around the block with a friend.

2. Accept change. If you are someone like myself, who needs the perception of control, use the Serenity Prayer to let go of the things in life you can’t control, which, by the way includes most things.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

3. Practice mindfulness. Staying in the moment, actively engaging with your environment of the moment and letting your thoughts and emotions arise and dissolve away, will help you let go of the past and keep you from worrying about the future.

4. Put together your support system. We all need other people, especially as we age. Family, very close friends and community groups all provide support. And, don’t forget pets. They also form part of our support system. My cats always know when something is off. They gather around and hang out to cheer me up.

5. Engage in stress relieving activities. Yoga, meditation, journaling, gardening, a walk around the block or a hike through a nearby park can all relieve stress. Find your stress reliever and use it as your go to when you feel stressed out by life.

6. Get plenty of sleep. As we age, that seems to be a tough one for some of us. However, it is even more important than ever as it keeps our brains functioning at top capacity. So, aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Cat naps are ok, too.

Even though retirement will never be stress-free, it can be a less stress time of life if we focus on the positive and adopt the above practices. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives. Nor the most intelligent that survives. It’s the one most adaptable to change.” Be a person who adapts. And, don’t forget to smile!