How to Gain Weight and Exercise Your Brain at the Same Time!

Photo Credit: Boogies with Fish via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Boogies with Fish via Compfight cc 

In my earlier post, I said my brain was frozen during the summer.  But only part of that was true. So let’s move on to the subject of Neurology and the Brain.

As The Nothing Expert, I am qualified to write about the brain because I have one. Now that I have your attention, let me just say that my brain does not work like the brain of a millennial. I cannot multi-task. I’m lucky if I can do one teeny, tiny task at a time, and then for mental reinforcement, I munch on some chips, and dip.

In 1955 in our fourth grade class, I wrote the script for a puppet show, and then I decided that someday I would “Write a Book.”

When I was sixty, I started my book, and it only took me ten years to write it.

Then millions of people told me “Ha. Ha. You cannot publish a book without a platform and billions of followers. Get a platform.”

A platform means followers, billions of followers, even some from outer space.

And so, I put the book away, and decided to seek followers, on Facebook, Twitter, and on this blog.

Along the way I met some very wonderful people and I have enjoyed their blogs, comments, and our shared conversations. I still don’t get Twitter, and I’m past the point of caring how I screw up on Facebook.

But I have not been a good girl this summer. I have failed to write in my blog and I have failed to comment on other people’s blogs. I beg for your forgiveness, if you are one of my followers.

That’s because I have been working on my book, again. You cannot just write “The End,” on your last page and then say “OK World, Come and get It!”

Actually, I have been learning how to publish the book. Now if we break that up into steps, I would say that publishing a book takes about a zillion steps, all of them new for an old broad like me. And I can only concentrate on one step at a time, or I will get frazzled, eat too much, and gain 25 pounds of flesh, in my thighs.

So, who had time for writing? Not me.

Also, I never mentioned the book because somewhere in the zillions of publishing pointers, there was a warning on “shameless self-promotion.”

So, I am going to try to do the unheard of “Walk and Chew Gum” at the same time. In the coming weeks I am going to work on a few more steps, all at once! Along the way, I will tell you more about the book, but I will try to do it in a way that isn’t shameless self-promotion. 

Now where is that butter pecan ice cream? I’m spent.

Summer Brain Freeze

Photo Credit: Artotem via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Artotem via Compfight cc

Am I the only one?

My thinking brain functions about two or three hours a day, and then it stops. Those hours are at dawn. If I don’t use my brain during that very short window of opportunity, I am in deep doo-doo. This spring and summer, I admit, my thinking brain has been asleep. My non-thinking brain has enjoyed summer reading, playing, vacationing, entertaining, cooking, eating, entertaining, imbibing and a big fat bunch of crying on the bathroom scale.

As a human, I find there are many acts which require thinking, and this realization often leads to conflict. Writing is one of those thinking activities.  I often say, “Rose, you nitwit! You have not blogged for almost two months! You should get a flogging for not blogging!”

Then I made the mistake of writing the first draft of this blog yesterday at four in the afternoon, a time when my brain was not working. Here is what I wrote about my failure to blog:

Every author of every self- help book about blogging castigates those profligates like me who allow our gray matter to ooze out of our skulls like magma and harden over us like the poor souls of Pompeii who were permanently hardened during the eruption of Vesuvius…

Now, dear reader, I had great fun writing that sentence; and no, I don’t want to revise it two thousand times. I am seventy years old, and I just don’t want to! Period!

Ah, that was so freeing!

(Please forgive me. I’ll be so sorry I published this when I read it during my optimum brain time tomorrow at dawn.) Right now I’m going back to sitting and staring out at my deck at the robins and the bluejays as they fight over my bird bath. It’s my window of opportunity to do just that.

My Search for the Red Phantom

Photo Credit: budandjackie via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: budandjackie via Compfight cc

Sixty years ago I saw my first scarlet tanager. I was ten.

I was sitting outside “in the country,” and I don’t know what made me look up, but there was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.  I called it a “real bird” because it was different than the plain brown birds I was accustomed to seeing. A “real bird” was the kind of bird I only saw in the Golden Guides my parents bought for me.

The scarlet tanager was in a tulip tree. The tulip tree was a “real tree” which I had also recently identified from my tree books. The days of pouring over those books were finally paying off.

I don’t know how long the gorgeous red bird graced me with his presence, but I do know that at the age of ten, it was one of the most joyous experiences of my life.  It was the day my hobby was born. After that day, and for the next sixty years I searched for another scarlet tanager and another tulip tree. The tulip trees were easy. I saw many of them.

But the scarlet tanager quest was unfulfilled.

The sad part of the story is I admit, “I am the worst birder in the entire world.” On Audubon outings when I am on my best game, and I can see color, I can identify birds that are close up. On outings when I am on my regular game, I can confuse pigeons with bald eagles.  I have learned to laugh at myself and have tried to educate myself. Even though I am “the worst birder,” I love being outdoors, being silent, and absorbing the sights and sounds of nature into my soul.

No scarlet tanager. How can that be? The bird books says he (the bright red male with black wings) is up there, but hard to find. Hard to find! I wonder how many other scarlet tanager searchers have been seeking the red phantom for sixty years? I am supposed to listen for him. Well, I mix up all my bird vocalizations, much as I try to work on improving my sightings.

I’m sure if I asked for help, from the many wonderful birding guides I’ve known over the years, I might have seen my tanager decades ago. But I didn’t. Mine was a private desire, lingering in my psyche for so many years—my tanager was becoming my holy grail.

(Of course, between my cataracts, retina surgery, touch of macular degeneration, hearing problems, perhaps I should be given a bird watching handicap…I don’t know what that is, but I know golfers get one) Oh well, I digress.

So the other morning I’m just sitting at my kitchen table and looking out to my deck where I have a bird bath (a plant saucer with two rocks in it for balance) and guess what! There, sitting on the edge of the plant saucer and leaning in to sip the water, is my scarlet tanager—the bird I have not seen in sixty years!

The last time I saw him, I was wearing plaid Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and red or blue Keds sneaks. I probably went into the house and ate a tuna fish sandwich on white Wonder Bread, cut in squares by my mother. Maybe I cooed to my brother sleeping in his crib. If it was a Sunday, maybe my father was there reading the travel section of the paper and eating bread and butter, or maybe borscht.

That’s why, the other day, when I saw the scarlet tanager, I cried, hard.

It took me a long time to recover, and I was glad I was alone. I thought “No one will understand.”

But I do hope you will.

And, my scarlet tanager? I don’t know where he is now. But I am hoping he will drop in again.

Magnolia Tree with Empty Nesters

magnoliaThe month of May makes me remember springtime in the 60’s, high school cheerleading days. This blog post is dedicated to cheerleaders and their coaches.  You should be sorry you didn’t pick me! Actually, I never even tried out in high school in the sixties. I was not ergonomically designed to be a bouncy cheerleader; perhaps if there were a team for professional seat sitters, I might have qualified.

Anyway, let’s fast forward to springtime in about 1977. A grown woman with two children now, I had the house (no more apartment 33B!); the magnolia tree in the front yard (can you believe?) and its zillions of fallen magnolia petals on our lawn (my lawn? me?) and our walkway (uh oh…slippery when wet…possible lawsuit?)

Add my son, who was three at the time, and now let’s add a bunch of his able-bodied contemporaries. I gave each of them a brown bag, and I guess you know where I am going with this story. “Ready! Set! Go!”  I cheered. I jumped!  I clapped! I might have even done a few cartwheels. My team of three year olds scampered and gathered, scampered and gathered, and emerged… VICTORIOUS! Their bags were full of magnolia petals, and my lawn and walkway were petal free!

So, if you read this, and you were a cheerleader, I hope you realize that my not being on your team was…your loss! Nah nah nah nah nah nah!

I’m sure I awarded my victorious team of petal baggers with something—probably ice cream. We were just on the cusp of the healthy snack movement in those days of the late 1970’s.

But those days were long ago. Now, my magnolia tree still stands on my front lawn and its petals still fall. I took this picture of it yesterday. I sweep the petals off the walkway so no one will fall if it rains. The petals on the lawn will decompose with time.

A Swinging Neighborhood

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

There’s my block and then there’s the other block. They have lots of little kids. No kids live on my block, anymore. They’ve all grown and moved away.  I wonder if my neighbors call my block, “Old People Land.”

I love nature and birds, and I have always kept my yard natural. Jerome, the Great and Good, has put our brush in the back of our yard for years. If I were to pick up any book about attracting birds to the yard, having a brush pile would be the first suggestion. I put water out and it attracts many birds and I suspect, some stealthy nocturnal raccoons too.

When my young neighbors moved in to the other block ( Young People Land) about four or five years ago, they put in a swing set near the back of their property. Their property touches the back of my land. One day, I looked out from my deck and I noticed my elm tree was dead. It had probably been dead for years, but honestly I never noticed it until the old widow moved out and the young family moved in.  My tree was right over their swing set. Terrified, I called the tree company the same day, and arranged to have the tree removed.

I left the stump of the tree, however. I thought it would be a great place to sit, or put a natural container garden, or a rock sculpture. I found serenity in my natural looking backyard.

My neighbor called one day, and said he was taking down some trees on his property, and he asked if he could remove the stump from mine. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Thanks.”

His swing sets got bigger and brighter. Vivid plastic colors of red, yellow and blue stood next to my brown and gray brush pile. He added a basketball net on a blue, white and red plastic pedestal.

One day I got a call from him. He was very polite when he asked me about cleaning up my brush pile. He blamed “the mess” on my lawn guy who, he said, “Never cleaned the back of my property.” My neighbor felt I would want to know that my brush pile possibly harbored poison ivy or dangerous wildlife, like mice. Would I speak to my lawn guy, please.

I called up my lawn guy and told him the brush pile would have to go. I wanted to be a good neighbor. And so, after forty years, the brush pile in the back of my property—went.

These young families really know how to build on to a house. I watch, as each of them on the “Young Family Block” adds on, up and out. My neighbor is almost finished with his renovation. His house, which was once the size of mine, has quadrupled in size.

And these young families, they also know how to maximize the possibilities of a backyard.  Let’s take another neighbor. He has created a veritable adult and kiddie playland! I know because his backyard diagonally touches my backyard.

He’s got:

  • One in-ground swimming pool, with many lounge chairs, and lots of colorful pool toys. Often his pool is the meeting spot on hot summer days for the folks from the Young Families’ Block. Therefore he also has:
  • Some umbrella tables and chairs
  • Some grill or grills. I can’t see, but I bet he’s got a smoker.
  • A large outdoor fire-pit.
  • A wire fence which he is required to have by law. It also works to contain his kids, the rest of the neighborhood’s kids, and his three large dogs, barking dogs.
  • A super-duper outdoor gym set which includes one or two slides, several creaky swings, ladders, parallel bars, places for kids to crawl and climb, and a little slant roofed house at the top. His gym set is bigger than some sets I see at public parks.
  • A large outdoor trampoline often filled with hordes of joyful jumping juniors.
  • A vegetable garden with a plastic composter…near where our properties touch, fenced from rabbits.
  • A purple martin bird feeder, high on a pole.
  • A shed

Last night, at twilight, I heard the joyous sounds of children’s laughter. There must have been ten little ones of all different ages jumping around with glee in the sideyard between the aformentioned neighbor’s backyards. I saw the reason for the kids’ delight. It was a tire swing, hung between two trees. The kids were delirious as they took turns. I watched four at a time swing together, but they squealed the most when a dad pushed them.

The teacher in me watched from my upstairs window. I wondered about the older kids’ homework. Then, I figured the parents must have said something like, “Homework first; then the swing.”

Long ago, when our block was the Young Family Block, we had a swing too. It was in the back of our house near our brush pile. Like the tire swing, our wooden swing was tied to the strong branch of one of our trees. I pushed my babies in that little swing and listened to their chatter and the chatter of the birds in my yard.

The swing is gone; the tree it hung from is gone; my brush pile is gone; and my children are gone from my backyard too.  When my kids visit, we  play ball with my grandchild  and she learns which tree to use for first base, second, third, and home base. We bat the ball around, and then they all go home.

I hear the sounds of other people’s children in my backyard now.  Maybe that’s a good thing. I enjoy watching them and listening to them. I know, that if ever I needed help, my young neighbors would be right there for me. They are really wonderful neighbors. I’m lucky to have them– and all of their bright plastic colors.

Lewis and Sparky

A couple of years ago, Jerome and I were out in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies. I was eager to see wildlife, particularly bears.  Finally at the end of our vacation, somewhere near Emerald Lake in British Columbia, we saw a small black bear off in the woods.  A triumph for us!  When we got home and told our neighbors about our bear, they laughed.  While we were three thousand miles away, a bear was right down the block from our house raiding a  neighbor’s bird feeder.  Go figure.

Clean-Up in Aisle Six!

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

I was buying cheese at the deli department of my local supermarket. Several other customers were behind me, when I heard someone say, “May I have some paper towels please.”  The deli man handed the paper towels over the counter, and a tall silver-haired man, stepped forward from behind me and took them.   I turned around and watched him bend down and wipe up a spill on the floor behind me. As I lifted my eyes, I noticed another woman watching him too.

As I didn’t hear or see the spill occur, I asked her, “Did he do it?”

“No, some little kid dropped it from a sippy cup,” the woman, who was about my age, said. The child was nowhere to be seen.

She and I looked at each other, smiled, and shared an unspoken, “This guy is a keeper.”

I spoke first, “Some woman is a lucky girl.”

She said, “I don’t know if my husband would have done that.”

I nodded my head in agreement.

I’m guessing that the same thoughts that flashed through my mind also flashed through her mind as we went about the day’s business.  We were probably thinking about the men in our lives, our fathers, our husbands, our sons. Yes. I nodded in agreement when she commented about her husband; but, I did that just to be congenial. I like to think that my men would have done the same thing as the good looking stranger in the supermarket.

 Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc


Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

“Please Send Your Child With…”

Photo Credit: --char-- via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: –char– via Compfight cc

“Ma,” my son said, “Hannah needs to bring a bag of cleaned parsley for her Sunday school’s model Passover Seder.” Hannah is our granddaughter, and Jerry and I were in Arizona visiting with her and our son, David.

The Seder is a symbolic meal celebrated by Jewish people to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery and Egypt. At Hannah’s Sunday school the teachers were going to conduct a model Seder to give the kids a feel for the larger scale Seder that would take place in their homes on Passover. Symbolic items on the Seder Plate are used as props to tell the Passover Story. A Seder plate includes: hard-boiled egg, salt water, matzoh, lamb shank, charoseth (a yummy mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine), horseradish (bitter herb), and the aforementioned parsley.

A home Passover meal is a BIG meal with many courses, and it takes a whole lot of preparation. Here are some sample foods I have served at various Seders given by Jerome and me over the years. First we put out the Seder plate as described above. Everybody loves my charoseth on their matzoh.

Then it’s time for some serious eating and the first courses: gefilte fish with horseradish; chicken soup with matzoh balls

Then,  the main meal: a chicken dish which changes every couple of years; matzoh stuffing; brisket with red wine and tomato paste; potato kugel (casserole with eggs, potato, onions, matzoh); tsimmes(casserole with carrots and/or sweet potatoes, raisins/prunes; brown sugar); green vegetable such as asparagus or brussel sprouts.

And lastly, desserts: an apple matzoh kugel; brandied peach compote cake (see epicurious.com); chocolate covered matzoh, assorted macaroons.

We have served from 6 to 26 friends and relatives and I cook everything myself…from scratch (except the gefilte fish, matzoh, and macaroons).

No one has complained because they all keep coming back; so I think I’m a reasonably proficient cook. Also, fyi, I do Thanksgiving every year for the same gang plus about 15 more folks. Everyone says I make it look easy.

I’m confident about my food preparation—until my granddaughter needs to bring parsley— TO SCHOOL—then I go crazy!

I ask myself:

  • Should the parsley be the good kind (Italian flat leaf) or should we buy the curly parsley like my mother used? Maybe the curly parsley is the authentic Jewish parsley?
  • Should I trim the long stems off the parsley? If so, how much? Is the parsley on the Seder plate supposed to have stems, or is it just the leaves?
  • Do I send a whole bunch so each little kid can get a sprig? Or should I just send a sprig for the Seder plate?
  • When should I wash the parsley?  The night before? The morning of?
  • If I wash the parsley, and I wipe it with paper towel, should I put the moist paper towel in with the parsley in the plastic bag overnight?
  • The next morning when Hannah takes her zip lock bag of parsley to Sunday school, should I leave the damp paper towel in the bag? Or does that look sloppy? Should I re-wrap the parsley with a dry paper towel? Should I just put parsley without paper towel in the bag?
  • Lastly, should I put the zip lock bag inside another little plastic bag?

Surely, I can’t be the only parent/grandparent who worries about this stuff? Am I?

Introverts, Phobics, Nature Lovers, and Compulsive Overthinkers

Photo Credit: MeckiMac via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MeckiMac via Compfight cc

I’m wondering if there is a connection between people who are introverts, phobics, nature lovers and compulsive over-thinkers. I belong to each of these tribes.

Here’s a scenario to illustrate.

I go to the park to exercise. Ha Ha, I lie. I go to the park, but not really to exercise. Mostly I go to the park to walk for a short time, and to sit down on a bench for a long time. I choose a bench by the lake, where I can sit, look, listen, read, write, or just think. If I’m lucky I might be rewarded by the sight of a double-breasted cormorant swallowing a fish. That happened last year, and it was a glorious moment.

On the first warm day this year, the snow has melted, and I decide it’s time to go back to my park.  I take my perfunctory short walk, and I sit down on my favorite bench. Ah, spring is almost here. I fill my senses.

A woman comes strolling down the path, stops at my bench and asks, “Mind if I sit down?”

Like the true wimp I am, I answer, “Go ahead.”

I need solitude and nature like I need food, and this woman has killed it for me.

I dream of making her dead. What would be the best way? I could throw her off a bridge, but that would be very difficult for me because I am afraid of things that are up high in the air, like bridges, and airplanes.

Hmm. I’ll have to think that through. Perhaps I ought to make a plan to plan to plan. I’ve been planning this blog post for a long time, way too long.

I wonder what two of my favorite authors would say.  Scott Stossel wrote  My Age of Anxiety…Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind. Susan Cain wrote Quiet…The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I wonder if they have ever met? I hope so.

I’m on my way to explore a blog I have just discovered when I searched for Stossel and Cain. It’s called “The Dedicated Amateur” and it is written by Amma Marfo. You can find her blog  at: http://ammamarfo.com/.

In the meantime, I will be worrying about something.

Winds of Worry

Photo Credit: lindsayloveshermac via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lindsayloveshermac via Compfight cc

My children, husband, relatives, friends and complete strangers say I am a compulsive worrier and control freak.

But, when you live in a house surrounded by trees, you tend to worry when there are reports of 15 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph. You like to prepare for disaster ahead of time.

Here are some of my recommendations.

If a tree falls on your house, you might have to go outside and be seen. With this cold weather, no one has actually seen you for weeks, and some folks are even wondering if you ever really existed. So dress appropriately for the moment you hear the crack of the branches, and the tree starts falling onto your roof and into your bedroom.

Plan your sleep apparel for the evening storm:

  • Scratch the pink, blue and white pajama bottoms with the ripped seams that you usually wear accompanied by the bleach stained red tee shirt top.
  • Instead, select appropriate I-have-to-run-out-of-the-house-likety-split sleepwear. May I suggest you retire to your boudoir in simple black sweats, along with a gray turtle neck (sans bleach stains) top. Socks and shoes are always a nice touch. Robes and slippers are only recommended for size two’s with fresh pedicures.

If, after the tree falls, you have to be carried out of your house you might also want to make provisions for the week that will follow.

Plan food for the events.

  • Have plenty of nourishing, yet suitable for a crowd casserole dishes just waiting to be microwaved in your fridge. It is important to prepare these dishes from scratch, so that people will compare you to Martha Stewart during their tributes. Soups are lovely, sustaining, and I highly recommend Portuguese Caldo Verde for feeding a large crowd.
  • My late Aunt Shirley also specialized in her “mourning meatballs” (with peppers and onions) which she put in a large vat for our family.

While you might want to run around and straighten your house as the winds whip up, it is highly recommended that you put your house in order ahead of time.

  • Clean bathrooms; hang fresh towels
  • Organize drawers and closets by color, season, event and in the case of some people, current size

Some last minute bedtime preparations must still be performed at the last minute.

  • Floss and brush
  • Dust
  • Put some fresh candy in the candy dish on the end table in the living room.

Then, go to bed, sleep well, and let the wind howl.