Dreams and Challenges of Life

8-10-14_super moonHow many through the ages have looked up at the moon and dreamt of exploring its surface. Long before the telescope people would look and wonder about the moon. Well, that dream persisted and in 1969 it finally happened. Dreams are an important part of our life. They may not be as grand as landing on the moon, but achieving that GED or getting your driver’s license, having a child, to some is just as monumental.

I once had a dream of becoming successful as a photographer. It did not happen quite as I would have liked, but I learned quite a bit along the way. On my journey I did have two showings at the Backus Gallery in Fort Pierce, Florida. The image on the right is a collage of old wheels that sold on the first night of one showing. The magnolia is one of a set of magnolias images.

Caught in the Gears of Setting Up

Full Cycle

To me, those showings were monumental successes. The area I fell flat on was marketing. As with most creative individuals, the creating part was and is strong. The ‘busy work knowledge,’ that which makes it all come about… was most lacking.

I did go to SCORE as well as an IRS class to learn how to set my business up. That part was OK. It was the going out and selling myself, making people aware of my work.  This is still difficult for me to do. I had a set of cards I sold through my website. What I failed to do was to get my cards into stores…book stores, gift shops etc.. Most important of all, I did not know about networking.

Now, photography is something I do for enjoyment. In an earlier post I spoke of discovering iPhoneography. Yes, it is super, but there are times I still need my old faithful Canon Rebel. My small cactus vine had been blooming yearly for a while, but the big fat vine that wove itself up into the top of a cabbage palm did not seem to be interested in blooming at all. What you must realize is that these blossoms only bloom at night, one night! When daylight comes they fold.

Then I saw it. The image of the bud was taken with my iPhone, but the pair of blossoms itself were taken with my Rebel using a telephoto lens. They were 20 feet up and no match for my iPhone when it came to getting a sharp image. As it was, I held a spot light in one hand and rested my telephoto lens on top of that while holding the camera in my other hand. Auto focus was all I could manage. Each bloom was over 12 inches long!

selenicus grandiflorus

Night Blooming Cereus Bud

 

It is through my love of nature, capturing it via my photography, that I keep going right now. Getting older is a whole new ballgame for me. My agility, energy level and more, are being challenged every day. Now I totally understand why I would see seniors shake themselves a little when they stood up after sitting a long time.

Looking forward to having a ‘rotor router’ job on my sinuses. My anxiety level is high. I use the beauty of nature around me to bring it down. I read books with happy endings. I have a great doctor doing the re-sculpturing of my sinuses and I get to visit my daughter and her family in the process. Couldn’t ask for a better combination!

 

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The Cabbage Palm and Me…

This gallery contains 4 photos.

I consider myself lucky as all I have to do is step outside my front door and Mother Nature greets me. I do not have a manicured yard where everything has a specific place and growth is strictly pruned. My … Continue reading

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I discovered the world of iPhoneography

I love photography, ever since I bought my Asahi Pentax, a 35mm film camera with my first paycheck on that summer job between college semesters. My equipment grew over the years to quite a handful… then life intervened. Carrying all that became most difficult, in fact, walking became difficult. Oh, I can get around the house, go shopping, but those treks into the unknown in search of that special photograph ended. Then I discovered the iPhone… At first I had the 4s. It was great, but I was not wise when it came to selection memory! Last year I decided to upgrade to the 6s…boy did I ever make sure I had plenty of memory to play with.

I am going to post a few images here that I have taken with my 6s. I also discovered some great iPad apps. I use the basic edit on the iPhone, but then I sometimes take images into creative photo apps. My favorites are Enlight, Procreate and Snapseed.spiderwort

To the left is a spiderwort blossom. I used a CamRah clip-on micro lens. I then did basic enhancement.

Tool still life

Had some fun with an odd assortment of tools in this “Tool Still life.” I worked on it in Enlight to give some texture and sharper detail.

Now this next one was done in two apps, both Enlight IMG_0524and Procreate. I turned the original into a sketch image then placed that sketch image on top of the full colored image. I lowered the opaqueness of the sketch layer and started to erase sections to let the full colored version to show through. On the right is another done IMG_0278using the same technique.

Now for someone who has used programs such as Photoshop, Corel Painter on their full size computer, learning to ‘downsize’ to an iPhone and iPad for the whole shebang is quite a creative journey with a major learning curve. I see I also need to upgrade my skills on this website.

One last image…using the panoramic feature of the 6s

IMG_1340

 

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My Journey as a Senior

Life is a Complex Journey

Life is a Complex Journey

It is absolutely amazing how our mental capabilities can boost or undermine our forward movement in life. When all is going right, we can feel invincible. If challenges appear within our mental or physical capabilities all can come to an abrupt stop…at least that is what happened to me. Some where in my dark recesses of my mind, within the past 8 years, I experienced a silent stroke. While it did not result in any of the symptoms covered in F.A.S.T, there were subtle changes that took a great toll on my life, my confidence in facing life.

For those unfamiliar with F.A.S.T the points to remember if you or another individual exhibit the following symptoms, act fast!

  1. Face…one side drooping, most visible in the mouth. The inability to smile.
  2. Arm…one arm droops, it cannot be raised.
  3. Speech…difficulty speaking or speech may be slurred.
  4. Time…time to act FAST. The damage of any stroke can be lessened if help is given quickly.

(update) 8/19/2015                                                                                                                                  It is amazing how the human body and the human mind can be rehabilitated. I understand fully the encouragement for seniors like myself, to continually challenge their minds. We are told to learn a new skill. It does not have to be a complicated one, but one that is totally different from what we have done in the past. Grow from doing accounting to woodworking, teaching to knitting. Music is a good choice. Yes, I learned to play the piano years ago, but have not touched it in over 50 years. I can still read music, which amazes me. I have a keyboard and have been trying to get myself to re-learn an old skill.

It upsets me to see how my writing came out earlier, but I am leaving it to remind me to keep challenging myself to regain my writing ability. Oh, I was never a top notch writer, but was able to earn money through my writing and that was a great feeling. hopefully I will be able to do that again in the future…it is that first step that is the hardest.
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I did experience some other symptoms at a later date that I will never forget. On December 10, 2013, I went out the door of my son’s home after an early holiday dinner. The next thing I knew I was in the car!  I did not remember walking the necessary steps to get there. This was about 30+ steps. I am so glad I was not the driver as I do not know what might have happened if I was.

Things went along just fine for a while. I had just started on a new career of freelance writing and my ability at it was growing, so was my confidence and more importantly, my income. Then, almost overnight that came to a stop. My ability to focus, my concentration disappeared. My balance came and went. Oh, I did not fall down, but I had difficulty walking a straight line. My sleep became more and more non-restorative. I have sleep apnea and I have been the most faithful individual there is regarding the nightly use of the sleep machine and the wearing of my mask. My sinuses, which have never been too happy with the onslaught of air invading their domain every night, began a strong protest that went beyond all treatments that worked before. Of course, unhappy sinuses can mess up  balance too.

After a new sleep study (December 2014) showed the presence of centrals, I spoke up and got a BIPAP machine. While it is not really the best for treating centrals according to what I have read, my sleep is deeper. My sleep includes DREAMS! I feel more rested in the morning. I do not know how to stress the importance of good sleep when it comes to our health!  Sleep is that time out of our day when our bodies get to step back from full activity and regain the strength put out during the day.

The rest of 2014 became a blur in my eyes. I existed and that was it. No energy, no writing, which lead to my becoming a blob…both physically and mentally. Now this happened to an individual that loved loading and unloading multiple 50 lbs bags of river rock to create a ‘dry river bed’ in my front yard. Tackling the overgrown trees/foliage with my mini electric chainsaw and lining it all up in the proper 4 foot lengths along the front of my property to be picked up. My partner, Elliot, and I were enjoying regular kayak outings.

Now, just the thought of handling that chainsaw scares me. After last spring, I have found myself reaching for hot objects without grabbing the hot pad first. Luckily I felt the heat and stopped in time. I start cooking and have to carry a timer as I simply forget that I am in the process of cooking! My speech is OK, but I now find certain words more difficult to say. Other times I use a word that just does not fit. “Yes,” you say, “This can happen to anyone!”  True, it can, but not in what was almost overnight and in combination with multiple other problems.

I am also a 14 year survivor of breast cancer. This is one anniversary that I hope to continue to adding on years. Oh, I did get a few hiccups post treatment, but I did survive. The major change that occurred and continues to affect my life, is that I am physically very sensitive, especially to medicines. I was unable to take any of the post chemo medications or the peripheral neuropathy medications, not because of an allergic reaction, but a hyper sensitivity that made those side effects so very strong.

I handle the neuropathy by wearing my stylish extra-wide, one size too big Crocs! Hey, they allow me to walk…who cares what they look like! When pain is bad, I stick my feet in ice water. Because I do not take OTC meds often, the occasional Tylenol does wonders. Then when I started feeling this jumping and flip-flopping in my chest…talk about panic. Of course, when I visited my primary or when I finally took myself to the ER early one morning…nothing happened!  It was only through the gift of the AliveCor unit from Dr. David Albert, that I discovered that the flip-flopping was simply PVCs. Next came the PACs, also not a major happening to worry about, but still…when you add strange cardiac events to my stroke and sleep apnea history, panic set in! Did I tell you I was a worrier?  Well, I am. So much so that my kids gave me a book on how to deal with worrying.

For most of my adult life, my big brother, Denny, watched over me in his way, especially after my parents died. Then it was his turn to leave. He had worked for Abbott Labs and dealt with radioactive materials. While he was monitored according to the protocols written, he developed thyroid cancer. It was impossible to remove it all and when it returned in a vengeance it compromised both his trachea and esophagus. A biopsy showed that it was not treatable. He passed away January 1st, 2015. I decided that his new mission is to make sure that I leave 2014 behind and recreate a new me in 2015. Out of the blue I started walking and walking. At first I could barely do a quarter of a mile. Now I can easily do a mile, even when I am not feeling all that great. I try to get two 1 mile walks in each day. With the summer heat and humidity of Florida, that means early morning and later afternoon.

This senior is fighting back. Last year I learned FiftyThree Paper, a free drawing app to put on the iPad. Using the app and Pencil, I have discovered a fantastic creative outlet where artists can share and even enhance each other’s work on MIX. I have learned about brain games like Brain HQ and Lumosity. I love my Solitaire Forever and MahJong that I keep on my iPad. All can be found on iTunes. I have learned to Twitter…I follow the links and read about so many new things that are occurring , especially in medicine. I promote those Tweets that are involved in healthcare, keeping our bodies strong.

This post is my fighting back at my fear of writing. It is being done for myself…not another. That makes a big difference. If I reach a point that writing comes easier, I will once again tackle freelance writing.

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Benefits of Tai Chi for Health

In the book The Root of Chinese Chi Kung, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming states, “Chi Kung is the science of cultivating the body’s internal energy”… “The correct definition of Chi Kung is any training or study dealing with Chi which takes a long time and a lot of effort.” Chi Kung also spelled as Qigong, has a long history with many variations. A student of Qigong should study more than one, to get a more rounded knowledge. Some lean more toward martial arts and others toward healing. That is the form to be discussed here.

Douglas Chung, Phd., in his book Qigong Therapies, explains how qigong is the integration of mind, body, and spirit. He says for healing; the body is relaxed, the mind is calm and the ego is set aside, so the individual can give full attention to the conscious self for holistic healing. Dr. Chung states, “Self-acceptance is the key and the starting point of energy and life transformation. If you cannot acknowledge and accept your weaknesses and limitations, you cannot accept your self and improve your self.”

He lists six major Qigong strategies:
1. Internalization… that includes energy internalization, energy management.

2. Body Posture… relaxation is critical. Various postures enhance the free flow of energy throughout the body.

3. Breathing… there are different breathing methods. Abdominal breathing is the most efficient and must be learned by most people.

4. Mental reframing… know your real self, believe in yourself, affirm yourself.

5. Spiritual Adjustment… this is an awareness of yourself–in the present moment… “your body, energy within and without, and on the flow of energy in whatever you do.”

6. Integration of mind, body, and spirit… where the body is relaxed, the mind is calm, and the ego is set aside.

By incorporating the breathing and relaxation practices of Qigong, you are developing preventative, therapeutic measures to cleanse your mind force energy and change your attitude toward life. The body has its own natural defenses toward disease, but it has to be maintained and kept strong. The immune system is weakened through stress and bad diet, bad habits. Qigong tries to undo the damage and restore what was lost. One good result is lower blood pressure through the use of breathing to control stress.

There is a formula for seeking Qi. It includes: Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity. You must also believe. Often we start things with good intentions, but in the back of our mind… we harbor doubts about being able to accomplish our goals.

For success when practicing Qigong, one has to be in the present moment. This means our minds must be clear and ready to receive the Qi. You cannot let outside distractions interfere such as worries, the television or any other external happenings. Your body must be relaxed, yet not in a sloppy way. There are various postures that are commonly used when practicing Qigong. Some are standing and others are moving. So you may begin to try and experience the benefits of Qigong, several postures will be described.

Standing posture:
A common standing posture is as follows. Position your feet; a little more than shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly. Make sure the knees do not extend beyond the tip of your toes. Tilt your pelvis under just a bit. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, bring your hands out in front about heart height, rounded, as if you are holding a large beach ball. Your elbows will be lower then your hands. Your head is straight and relaxed, not tilting forward or backward.

Breathing:
In this position, you start to take deep abdominal breaths. Inhaling and then exhaling slowly, letting your exhale become longer than your inhale so you can remove any stale air in your lungs.

Your mind:
The hard part comes now for most people. Your mind is to become quiet, without any intrusive thoughts. This is not easy to do. At first you will be bombarded with thoughts. Let them come and just keep on moving. Do not acknowledge their presence or get upset over them. That is when the thoughts gain control of your mind. Over time you will learn to let them come and go without any reaction on your part. Just concentrate on your breathing.

We live in a very noisy world. I found some comments by Janet Luhrs, of the Simplicity Movement, about how to bring quietness into your life.
**Start the day with silence… stretch, read an inspirational message, before the coffee and news.
**Eat at a table without TV or reading… mindful eating is very beneficial.
**Drive in Silence… keeps us alert and more receptive to our own thoughts.
**Create a silence retreat at home… one evening a week, no TV, no phone and no talking.
**Practice silent exercise… no iPod, video, or other media, hopefully outdoors. Silence helps you pay attention to your body.

There are many moving postures. The three I will describe are part of a group of Qigong exercises put out on a CD by the National Qigong Association, called the Five Treasures. They also have a video you can see at this link.

Shaking the tree:
This is a good warm up movement, especially at the beginning of your day. It would also fit in during the middle of the day, when you start to get bogged down. Stand comfortably with your feet, a shoulder width apart, and start to gently shake your whole body. Let your spine and all joints are loose as you move and shake to awaken your inner Qi.

Ocean Qi:
Again with your feet a shoulder width apart, bring your hands in front of you, almost touching. Next, while inhaling, open your arms out to the side with your palms facing up. On your exhale, lower your hands down in front of you once more and end in a squatting position. Watch that your knees do not go beyond your toes.

As you continue, each time you raise your hands out to the side, reach higher, like the growing swell of a wave. When you are coming to an end, let the reach of your hands become lower, again imitating the wave as it reaches the shore.

Draw down Qi:
With feet shoulder width apart, arms and hands in front, inhale and raise your arms our and over your head. Exhale, and bring the Qi down into your body as you bring your hands down in front of your body and letting it return to the earth as you bend your knees slightly. Once again rise and lift up your arms above your head as you inhale, repeating the cycle. Remember to keep your spine relatively straight, do not slouch, and your shoulders relaxed as you raise and lower your arms.

When doing any Qigong exercises, be aware of all changes in your body and thoughts. Listen to what your body is telling you at all times of the day. Your posture, your attitude, the stress in your life all affects your health. Practicing Qigong brings balance within, quietness to your mind and your spirit. You will develop an awareness of both yourself and the world around you that will be able to guide you as you move through life. Gaining control of your mind, being able stabilize stressful moments by deep breathing, better overall health are the end product of a daily Qigong practice.

Jwing-Ming, Dr. Yang. The Root of Chinese Chi Kung. Jamaica Plain, MA YMAA Publication Center 1989

Chung, Douglas K.. Qigong Therapies: A Self-Care Approach. Grand Rapids, MI: Chung Institute. 2000

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Tai Chi for Arthritis

Everyone needs muscle strength, but you do not have to go to great lengths in the gym, lifting weights, working with machines to achieve muscle strength. The main reason muscle strength is needed, is because it is very important for supporting and protecting the joints. It is needed for normal physical functioning.

Flexibility is also needed for ease of movement, circulation of the fluids of the body and blood, both of which promote healing. Fitness is needed for the proper functioning of your heart, lungs as well as your muscles. Tai Chi can make this happen. What is amazing is people can do that tai chi at any age. Reasons why more that 2.3 million Americans practice tai chi is listed below.

  • to obtain benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise:
  • to improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility;
  • to improve balance and decrease the risk of falls;
  • to ease pain and stiffness;
  • to improve sleep; and
  • for overall wellness.

Harvard Medical School referred to tai chi as “meditation in motion”, as it is also helpful for reducing stress, hypertension, sleep problems, low bone density, and stroke. Tai Chi is especially suitable for adults since the level of exertion is adjustable according to the individual’s ability. When an exercise can be done easily, without pushing to achieve the completion of the program, there is a better chance the individual will continue to persevere. Once one level has been reached, then they can step up to another level, totally at their own pace.  Tai Chi becomes for many, a lifetime journey.

Tai Chi for Arthritis:

  • Muscle strength is important for supporting and protecting joints. It is essential for normal physical function.
  • Flexibility exercises enable people to move more easily. Flexibility also facilitates the circulation of body fluid and blood, which enhances healing. Many arthritic conditions such as fibromyalgia, scleroderma and spondylitis are characterized by joint stiffness and impaired physical function. Tai chi gently frees up stiff joints and muscles.
  • Fitness is important for overall health and proper functioning of the heart, lungs and muscles. Tai Chi for Arthritis can improve all of these components.

As stated, it helps to relieve pain and reduce stress. Some of this is because it is a mind-body exercise. Tai Chi brings about a sense of serenity and relaxation of the mind and it is in this manner, it helps to reduce the pain and stress of the individual.

One of the most significant and positive results of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program is because as an individual becomes more flexible, they are less prone to falling. The hip and knee joints are not only stronger, but also more flexible. This comes about through simple and gentle movements done on a regular basis. It was found that those who practice the art of tai chi are less likely to drop out compared to other forms of exercise.

What happens in a Tai Chi class:

The movements of tai chi are full of symbolism and this engages the mind with the movement. The whole body is involved with each movement, whether the movement is focused on the hands, or the arms. As one leg bends, the other stretches, with the hips as the driving force of the motion. It starts on one side of the body and switched to the other side. The arms rotate at the shoulder, not only to encourage the arm to stretch out, but to strengthen the shoulder muscles.

Individual movements may only last two minutes or more and within an hour-long class, up to 20 movements may be incorporated. The movements can be learned in sets, they do not have to be learned all at once. Gradually the individual can add more movements to the whole set.

Cate Morrill, a certified tai chi instructor tells WebMD that if at all possible, people should take it as a class.  A special camaraderie develops among the individuals in a class. There is a automatic support group present, a cheering section,  and friendships develop. According to legend, “if you meditate and do tai chi 100 days in a row, you gain back eight years of youth,” says Morrill.

The flexibility that develops in the class, follows the individual throughout their daily lives, in their cleaning the house, working in the yard, getting in and out of the bathtub, to mention a few.

“There’s logic in how tai chi works,” Parag Sheth MD of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York says. “Tai chi emphasizes rotary movements — turning the body from side to side, working muscles that they don’t use when walking, building muscle groups they are not used to using. If they have some strength in those support muscles – the rotators in the hip — that can help prevent a fall.”

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My Entry…

This is an excerpt from my entry into the Reliable Writers Contest. It came in third.

How to Unkink and Relax at Stressful Times

That clock just does not stop clicking as it moves on, seconds, minutes and sometimes hours escaping our grasp. What happened? We thought we were on track! Oh yeah, that phone call, or was it that ten minute break on FaceBook that turned into sixty minutes? Now you are all up tight, your neck and shoulders feel like they are tied up in knots. All this has given you one major headache and you ask, Why? This feeling can hit a student getting ready for exams, the business person with a deadline looming, and even a mother trying to get the home ready for a special occasion. It does not discriminate.

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