I have just been through the longest weeks of my life. My mother died October 23, 2011 at the age of 81; they called it sudden death. The day before we had talked like every day, talking about her yard and my dog. At the end of the conversation, she instructed me - as she always did - to pet Mr. Darcy on her behalf. Then the usual 'talk to you tomorrow'.
The same evening, she was doing a crossword puzzle and then dozed off. She never woke up again.
As I am trying to wrap my mind around the events, I am left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude in all my grief. Grateful that she lived to the very last minute of her life. Grateful that she did not suffer but gently transitioned.
After her partner of many years passed away over two years ago, I had begun to call my mom every day. My mom had great neighbors but I felt it was important the she would speak to at least one person each day. And for me to know that she was okay. Ultimately, that’s how I found out that something was not right and called help.
Calling every day kept us close and enabled both of us to share the big and the small of everyday life. And to say all that needed to be said.
I realized that even if I were to be given another five minutes, there would be nothing new to talk about.
I am grateful that there was nothing between us that was left unsaid.
It’s this time of the year again; the leaves are beginning to turn, the temperatures are dropping to just about perfect conditions, and we are having the State Fair with all things mind-boggling: the longest alligator, rides for the fearless, animals with ribbons, the largest pumpkin, and food to make the producers of cholesterol-lowering medication jump with joy.
How can I pass up that opportunity for people watching? I was there to see it all.
I passed up the rides. I still remember the last one which ended with a visit to the chiropractor. I love seeing the animals. There was the award-winning turkey who was sold for an astounding $3000. I contemplated with joy that he is certainly safe from the fate of becoming the centerpiece at Thanksgiving.
As I passed the petting zoo, I was ever so tempted to borrow a toddler as a justification of petting a zebra, goat and camel. I love animals, and as long as they have furs or feathers, I just itch to pet them. And people were encouraged to buy a small bag with carrots as the only food that the animals were allowed to have.
Oh yes: the food at the State Fair. What delicacies are there to be had! As a vegetarian, it is obvious that I would ignore the turkey legs or the great variety of sausages. But then there are fried Oreos, fried Snickers, fried Twinkies, fried cheeseburgers. And the latest creation: fried cheeseburger on a doughnut bun! Yikes!
During the State Fair, this area easily can qualify for having the greatest density of calories per square foot in the state. As you leave the fair, your arteries are likely to be just as clogged as the traffic. Unless you are a zebra or camel; then you only got to eat carrots. We sure love our animals here!
Yesterday was Election Day in North Carolina for various county and town offices. One of those in-between elections that usually does not get much attention, at least not by the majority of voters.
I spend my entire day at Cary Academy where I worked as a precinct official for the first time in my life. I had been involved with elections before as a volunteer, registering voters. I also once was a poll observer as an emissary of one of the parties. Being in an official capacity rounded out my education in election rules and regulations.
Voter turnout at our precinct was very moderate. We had been given 1900 ballots and only used 381 of them. The number of voters rarely outnumbered the number of precinct officials at any given time.
What were my observations of the day?
- There are so many checks and balances in the process that I am completely confident that the voting process in Wake County is beyond reproach.
- Voting seems to be a family virtue. There were many instances of a husband AND wife voting, together or separately.
- There were only very few people under the age of 30 who voted.
- I cannot imagine having a desk job and being obligated to sit for extended periods of time.
In summary: the day was fun in a twisted kind of way. I love meeting new people, and I certainly did that. I also like learning new things. I may just have a new job once or twice a year.
A few days ago, I read with utter amazement that the average teenager sends thousands of text messages per months. To me, this is an incomprehensible figure but I am not here to argue whether this is a good way to communicate or not. I do not believe that I am to be the judge of that.
What concerns me, though, is the impact is has on health, particularly repetitive stress injuries to the thumbs. There is already a name for it: “Blackberry Thumb”. And it is easy to see how this can lead to problems up the chain towards the hands, wrists, shoulders, upper back and neck.
I am not kidding myself that my writing this blog will cause any teenager to stop texting. Young people unfortunately consider themselves indestructible and bulletproof. I thought so myself, so who am I to say?
But as I am working primarily with older adults and see the effects that arthritis has on their lives, I am wondering whether there should at least an attempt be made to counteract the looming disaster.
People with arthritic hands are miserable and in constant pain. Not only is it more difficult to exercise; even activities of daily living become a major problem. Even if medicine will make some advances, I am not expecting to see the magic bullet any time soon.
I personally use the MELT Hand Treatment often to keep my hands and fingers in good shape. If course, I only need to balance out an average of 3 text messages per month and not 3,000.
It’s been only a few weeks since I wrote a blog about fascia, calling it a Cinderella story. No more. If there was one thing that struck me at the last IDEA World Fitness Convention in August 2011, it was the frequent mentioning of fascia by the presenters of the conference.
I am pleased to be at the forefront of the ‘fascia’ buzz because MELT is the first self-treatment technique for fascia and is based on extensive study by Sue Hitzman who has created this method. I teach MELT classes at the Rex Wellness Center in Raleigh regularly and have witnessed remarkable results even in casual participants, not to speak of the growing number of students who have their own soft rollers and are MELTing any opportunity they have.
It is scary. Sarcopenia is a word that comes from Greek and means ‘poverty of flesh’. For our purpose, I’ll define as a loss of muscle as it seen with some diseases but it is most commonly associated with aging.
Research shows that everybody will experience a certain degree of sarcopenia as we get older; however, the degree of this loss of muscle is not pre-determined and is largely influenced by our lifestyle choices.
I hate to bring it up again but, as in many cases, the answer is diet and exercise. And when I talk of exercise, I talk of resistance training. The amount of resistance used must be sufficient to fatigue a muscle within about 10 to 12 repetitions. Thus, a 3-pound dumbbell, flung around for 50 repetitions, is not enough. Pick up a 10-pound dumbbell instead and only use it 10 times.
Sarcopenia is also not a phenomenon that applies to women alone. Men are just as likely, if not more so, to experience this loss of muscle as they age.
How does diet enter the picture? For a muscle to grow in size (this is called hypertrophy), the body needs to have sufficient protein available. For the longest time, the amount was defined by the following formula: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For the metrically challenged, this means 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. It appears that this formula needs to be revised upwards as we get older to about 1.0 to 1.5 grams per kg of bodyweight (0.45 grams to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight).
How would you know that you have lost muscle? An indication would be that tasks requiring strength are simply more challenging to accomplish. If it feels that a gallon of milk has gotten a lot heavier, you have probably lost muscle. To found out more about it, you can get a body composition test. There are several methods; I personally use our machine called Futrex that uses near-infrared technology. Other methods are calipers or bioelectric impedance. There are fancier ways to do it but they are usually not easily accessible and tend to be very expensive.
What if you have a perfect BMI? Is everything okay? Not necessarily. If you are one of those lucky people who have maintained their weight since the age of 20, you may still have lost muscle. In fact, it is possible that you have perfect weight but – underneath it all – you have very little muscle and a lot of body fat. By the same token, very muscular people can have a BMI that classifies them as overweight by those standards but may have perfect body composition.
The bottom line: know your body composition to be sure. Go to the gym and get re-acquainted with resistance training if you have slacked and don’t let that sarcopenia bite you.
Credit for those words of wisdom (paraphrased) goes to Roberta Anding who is the Director, Sports Nutrition, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital. I was fortunate enough to have attended her lecture on sarcopenia at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Los Angeles in August of 2011.
Once upon a time, there was ‘stuff’ that nobody understood, and it was therefore blissfully ignored in favor of its neighbors which were open to inspection and let everybody know what they were doing.
That ‘stuff’ is fascia, and its very substance gives our bodies structure and stability. Fascia surrounds every bone, every muscle, and every organ. It connects the heel to the skull in long myofascial lines. It creates slings and stirrups, and it is insinuated in the nursery rhyme ‘Dem Bones’. It double-bags the viscera and thereby reinforces the protective structure of our core muscles.
Thomas Myers has recently called the research into fascia a Cinderella story, but it certainly appears that Prince Charming is on its way with the glass slipper. Gil Hedley has an absolutely fascinating set of DVDs called ‘The Integral Anatomy Series’ in which he beautifully demonstrates the prevalence of fascia and how it interconnects every facet of body function. These DVDs are dissections of human forms, and they are done with such reverence towards the donor and the family who are behind this form that – for me – it quieted any concerns I may have had about watching it.
Watching the DVDs has opened my eyes to a completely different world of anatomy where nothing exists independently, and while I cherish my anatomy books that create such a sanitized version, where everything has a clearly defined beginning and a clearly defined end, I now marvel in the realization that any action in any part of my body may have an impact on some place seemingly distant, yet connected through fascia.
I recently read a very interesting book: 'The Emperor's New Drugs' by Irving Kirsch. The drugs under scrutiny in this book are antidepressants, and while that were very intersting, there was another subject that caught my full attention: the role that placebos play.
Of course, we all know that there is always a placebo group in drug trials, and the placebo effect is legendary.
As I was pondering about that, I was struck by how little anyone can do to heal another person. Whether it is a doctor, chiropractor, a drug, a placebo or a spell. The only one with the power to heal is the person him- or herself needing the healing. Drugs and doctors can create a more favorable enviroment in which healing is facilitated easier but the power still rests entirely with the patient.
I am a MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique) instructor, and this modality quiets the stress reflex and brings the body in a state of greater efficiency and a better alignment. People often report sleeping better and just feeling more energized. While MELT by itself cannot heal any ills, it is yet another way to create an environment in which people can easier tap into their own power to heal themselves.
My training studio sets itself apart from all the others because I have an indispensable co-trainer: my dog Mr. Darcy.
I love to learn, and dogs can teach us a lot about life. Of course there is the proverbial unconditional love, but there is also unconditional acceptance. A dog has the uncanny ability to look through all bodily imperfections and see the heart of the matter. It is not easy for us humans to truly accept others as they are.
Particularly in the field of fitness, people tend to seek out a personal trainer because they want to change something about themselves. I have never met new clients who told me that they love themselves just they way they are. Quite the contrary, people come with a list of inward and outward imperfections. I see negative self-talk, the belief that one will only be truly happy after a certain goal has been attained.
In comes Mr. Darcy with a smile on his face and a wagging tail. If he judges at all, it is only the individual’s ability to scratch his back and find just the right spot. He stands in eager anticipation for any client to come in, and, without fail, he is the first one to be greeted before any attention is paid to the human trainer.
Mr. Darcy sets the standard for me what it means to accepting another person and listening with full attention without interrupting. He also teaches that you should always stretch after you have been in any one position for a while.
However, he fails miserably when it comes to controlling his appetite and his food selection. I would not want to know how he would act if given free reign at an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet. (However, I am pretty sure that the evening would end at the vet’s office.) Even in this, he is teaching me not to feel superior towards those humans who have a hard time with that but rather to be compassionate. As far as food is concerned, Mr. Darcy proves my firmly held belief that virtue is usually lack of opportunity.
And if you have not yet met him person, please visit my web site www.meltnc.com
(MELT at my studio) to see him in all his glory. He even has his own “Mr. Darcy’s Friends” tab.
I had known of Rolfing for the longest time. I am not even sure when it first entered my consciousness. Maybe the fact that Dr. Ida Rolf was German and so am I? Something of a field energy thing?
As a MELT Instructor, I have much more in-depth interest in fascia and studied Thomas Myers' (a Rolfer) book ‘Anatomy Trains’; it seemed only a matter of time when I’d take the plunge and try it out. I had heard people say that it usually involved a great deal of pain but I was willing to endure it in the interest of furthering my education.
Today was the day. I met Jason and saw immediately that he clearly had a physique capable of inflicting pain. He looked at my health history, did an assessment, and then the Rolfing session was about to begin.
Well, what can I say: I felt great when it was done, and I also enjoyed the process. Painful? Absolutely not. Jason explained to me that Rolfing has evolved over the years. Yes, there are still practitioners that practice a ‘harder’ style of Rolfing but Jason was not one of them.
The techniques are clearly different from massage, and I could feel how he lengthened connective tissue. I felt that my body was better aligned when I left. I also discovered some imbalances that I had not been aware of and am eager to get on my MELT roller to see whether I can make improvements using the techniques I am using.
And I am looking forward to my next appointment.
If you want to find out more (and better) information about Rolfing, here is the link to Jason's web site: http://raleighrolfing.com/