Friday, November 15, 2019

Moving....Again?

Hard to believe...my husband and I are moving again after only 3 years in our current location. Wow, it's so exciting, but sometimes I feel like an Army brat. Although military families probably move more frequently than this. Perhaps you could just say I am a glutton for punishment. Moving is a very stressful experience. It would be great if you could take "moving stress" and stuff it in a box, tape it up and shove it into the truck. All neat and tidy and put away...but it's not quite that simple. I have just recovered from a nasty bout of flu, brought on I'm sure by my immune system being compromised by all the stressors in my life- the "move" included. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I love the geographic area we moved to with all the beautiful lakes and woods for the start of our retirement years. However, we are just hoping to change our house that we live in to meet all our needs. My husband is a talented woodworker and the shop he has at our current location is woefully inadequate, not really a "shop" at all. In our new house, he will have a completely unfinished basement to set up an awesome shop, just the way he likes. We will be moving only 20 miles from our current location, and probably won't move until early spring. It's kind of exciting that we are having a house built. Really exciting but LOTS of decisions to be made.

Me stressed? Nah....I've done this so many times before.
According to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move  11.7 times in their lifetime. Over the course of a lifetime, perhaps 11 times does not seem like too much. Especially when you factor in trips to college and back home every summer, I guess that would count as "moving".  I counted the moves in my lifetime and it already comes to about 21, so I guess that is about double the "average". You think I would get used to it by now, and efficient at the process...maybe, but its still stressful.


Speaking of the stress of moving, to help diminish the stress and help clarify things in my own mind; I am doing my favorite activity: writing. It's a little healthier than drinking, which is a close second for stress reduction. I still pursue the joy of libations, depends on the day. Yet writing still is incredibly therapeutic for me...so here I am at the keyboard again.

In any case, when we moved 3 years ago I blogged about it. I dug out one of my old blogs on the subject that I had written just prior to our move. I discovered that I was incredibly distraught at the time because I had not completed the book based on my Grandmother's diaries. Fear not, after all the craziness of the move, I did settle in and complete the book. My relatives who knew and loved my Grandmother as I do, were pleased that the book is a fitting remembrance of my Grandmother. I am so glad that I was able to accomplish that task for my family. Hopefully, I can continue to pursue my writing and "keep on plugging", I do have another book in the works. I will survive this move as well and perhaps even complete the book "in progress".

 In helping us to cope with the changes in our life, I have found comfort in the observation that change is inevitable and we might as well expect it. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it best: "Change is the only Constant in Life"  If we know that change is bound to occur, then it's easier to meet the changes with an open mind and a spirit of discovery, instead of cocooning and shutting ourselves to the possibility of new experiences. So here's to dealing with change...wish me luck!  Julie Etta Smith


Monday, July 22, 2019

Body Image-taking a Leap of Faith

Photo by: Aleksander Antonijevic
This morning as I slipped on some exercise pants for my work out at the gym I noticed something that brought a chuckle to my day. On the tag of my pants it said "Danskin".  Most of my exercise clothes are generic or old t-shirts, but I do have a few nice ones. I remember an old commercial for Danskin: "Danskins are for dancing". Now I'm assuming the company meant to inspire anyone to get off the couch and start dancing. Preferably a dance suitable to an accomplished ballerina. And if you wear Danskin clothing you will look like a ballerina with the sculptured muscular legs to go with it. Nothing against Danskin, they are just trying to sell leotards, tights and leggings, but one can't help but get these certain images in your brain about how a healthy body is "supposed" to look. It's my understanding that they changed their slogan to "Danskin's are not just for dance." Also, now it's called "activewear", for just about any and all forms of "active living". Although I will say, I can't see myself going to the grocery store or walking a dog wearing leggings and a tank top. I know, it's been done....to each his own.

 So getting to the chuckle that was brought to my day.... as I slipped on the exercise pants, when I saw the Danskin label I thought of myself as a pretty Portly Ballerina. Now I was being gentle with myself- I didn't say a FAT ballerina; I was so kind to use the euphemism "portly".  Then it brought a smile to my face when I realized what I would look like trying to attempt ballet. Yet, I dressed, went to the gym and felt strangely empowered by being thankful for what my body CAN do, not dwelling on the things I CAN'T do. I also try very hard to focus on what my body can do, not what it looks like. Yes, my legs are fat, my knees hurt....but my legs still work, and my knees bend. Perhaps it takes me longer to climb a flight of stairs than it did a few years back, but by golly I can still do it.
 3 Cheers for Julie.  Yes, I want to stress the importance of being your own cheering section.

Now perhaps I have a biased opinion, because I never took ballet. Yet I hold in high regard the beauty of the art form of dance and am always amazed how an accomplished dancer, ballet and other forms of dance, can discipline their bodies to perform incredible athletic feats. Truly an inspiration. I did however take a one semester course in Jazz Dancing. Oh my gosh. What an incredibly fun class. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but never did get the full routine down pat. As I said previously, not a good dancer. I remember to this day it was to Chaka Khan's "I Feel for you"....great song. Click on this link to hear that good ol' song and I think you will agree, it's very "danceable:
 https://youtu.be/hX9E44mClKs  In the class, there were many fancy dance steps and motions, in many different sequences.  Even if I "messed up" several times, it was so great just becoming immersed in the dance and moving your body to the music. Isn't that the point of dancing? That's why I always have music to move me at the gym. Helps motivate me.

So on that playlist from my MP3 player I use at the gym, many of the songs help me to rise above "body image" and work to keep the body I have healthier and happy.   In terms of female body image and empowerment, Meghan Trainor has many songs to inspire. One of my favorite lines is from  "All About that Bass" : several lines encourage loving the body we have: Meghan sings: " Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two....I see the magazines working that Photoshop. We know that shit ain't real. Come on now, make it stop...Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."
Thanks Meghan.
So I guess I can't stress enough, both to myself and to many others bombarded by images of what the perfect body should be. Love and take care of the body you are in because it is the only body you are given. Be good to yourself and thank the Good Lord for the goodness within you.

Julie E. Smith

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Perpetual Student

You would think when I completed my formal education, I would have stopped taking notes and scribbling interesting bits of information on any nearby paper I could get my hands on. Yet, alas...it is a habit that I have carried outside the classroom. Granted, usually it's for ideas for my two blogs and/or a potential article I have been "meaning to write."

Although sometimes the note taking is not for quite such a concrete purpose, but rather just to clarify my own random ramblings in my brain. Like many people, it helps me to remember things. This concept of my propensity for frequent note-taking came to mind today at a Weight Watchers meeting. A  fellow meeting attendee inquired, "You're taking notes?" I explained: "Yeah, I know it's weird...but it really helps to remember all the pointers and great ideas that are shared at meetings."
She seemed to think that made sense, or maybe she was just being polite, but it really doesn't worry me. That's just who I am...a journalist and a note taker. I don't trust my memory and it really does help to highlight what I view as important. I have even been known to jot notes on the church bulletin when a particular sermon has inspired me to pursue further discussion or reading. I have generated several blog topics that way...(Thanks Pastor Barry for your inspiration.) So I just keep on taking notes and hopefully keep on learning new things. One can never live long enough on this earth to know everything...there is always something new to learn.


So I keep writing, reading and learning as a perpetual student in a variety of areas of study. Of course I have my favorites, and I doubt I will ever go back to studying Algebra or Trigonometry....Argghhhh...scary thought!! Yet having the opportunity to always learn something new is a blessing.  Albert Einstein expressed this well by saying: "Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it."

My mother is truly an inspiration to me. And to her grandchildren as well. She always finds something new to discuss and to learn about with other people: always ready to embark on new learning adventures.   She is a "newspaper article clipper" and has an uncanny knack for knowing just what the people in her life are interested in. Any article on the National Parks (one of my passions) always finds its way to me. One of my sons is a civil engineer living in Alaska and working to assist with reliable energy sources. You can bet Mom always finds energy development and Alaska articles for him. Well, you get the idea and the list goes on for her finding new information that affects the lives of those she loves. She obtained her undergrad and Masters degree quite some time ago....but the learning just keeps on going.

When I travel and have a brochure in hand, its funny that additional notes always end up on the side margins. I have little tid-bits of information that I know I will forget if I don't jot them down. I own several journals that I take such joy in filling up the pages. Some are used for story ideas, some just for the sheer joy of writing. I know we are still in the peak of summer...but the Back to School sales will be upon us soon. Every August (sometimes even late July) I delight in the crisp, white pages in the spiral notebooks and packets upon packets of pens and pencils. All waiting to be used.  My husband has to keep me away from those aisles in the store...I probably have enough journals, spiral notebooks and pens to last at least five or six years....I better get busy.          
                                                                                       Julie Etta Smith



Monday, May 13, 2019

People or Places...What triggers the Memory most?

My Alma Mater: TRHS- Des Moines,IA
I used to think that is was shallow minded to have many of one's fondest memories be wrapped in  a favorite place or building (one's old high school for example) After all, the building or locale is only an object and not a living breathing organism...shouldn't it be people that we share our lives with that create those treasured memories? Yet, recently I have been revising my thinking on this. I believe it's a mistake to separate the two and think of them as exclusive categories.  They often feed on each other and serve to cement those memories for us. A childhood home, or your old high school, triggers memories, probably both good and bad of your growing up experiences. Which in turn triggers memories of those people who shared events within our childhood. In that respect, the building or place has served it's purpose in connecting us to the people of those particular memories.

Yet, in someways the special building or place can evoke memories that stand alone-devoid of any connections to other people in your life. Perhaps those places serve a purpose in our memory in and of themselves. They help to provide a highly personal collection of memories that is exclusively our own, ours and ours alone. An example I'm thinking of from my child hood is a special place I used to go near my Grandmother's house. I used to "escape" there to be alone with my thoughts and also to reconnect with nature. It was in the nearby woods, close enough to the road so I wouldn't feel lost, but nestled in the trees so I could feel alone. There was a huge slab of stone, quite comfortable to sit upon. I dubbed it my "thinking rock". Whenever we went to visit, I sought it out to have some precious "Me time".

Taking the opportunity to relive and cherish happy times is good for the soul.  Conversely, as a matter of self-preservation, hurtful memories are delegated to the darkest corners of our mind. Sometimes they are frequently meant to stay there, because sometimes they are better suppressed.  We can continue to cope and move forward without them being on the forefront of our consciousness.
"Sometimes,  I guess there just aren't enough rocks"
 Some things can't be "resolved"  other than to just put them on a shelf. Then sometimes the sadness, anger or fear is brought forth and triggered by a specific place. One of the best example of suppressing memories in this manner is beautifully illustrated in the film Forest Gump.  Jenny had come back to visit Forest and as they were strolling came upon her abandoned childhood home. Living in that home with an abusive father, her face clouded over, then turned to anger. She began hurling stones and breaking the last of the remaining window glass. It is one of the most powerful, telling scenes in the whole movie. As she dissolves in tears, Forest comforts her the only way he can by saying: " Sometimes I guess there just aren't enough rocks." Simplistic in nature on the surface, Forest had it spot on by revealing that sometimes in our psyche, injuries can't be healed but only fade to a distant memory.


The discussion about what triggers the memory most, people or places, can be revised very quickly when one finds out that it is not the sense of sight that is the strongest sense for triggering memory. Out of all of our 5 senses, scientists have confirmed that the sense of smell is the strongest for memory recall.  Here is a ranking, that is generally agreed upon in the scientific community, of how our five senses rate in assisting us with our memory recall.
  1. Smell - Certain smells can trigger vivid memories almost instantaneously.
  2. Taste - Taste is closely linked to smell, so it also has a powerful connection to memory, 
  3. Touch -  Textures and certain feelings can bring out old memories.
  4. Sight- Most people consider this the most important sense, however it does not rank high on the list for triggering memory.
  5. Sound - I found this very ironic that sound is the least important sense for recalling memories. Hard to believe when I think of all my favorite music from my high school and college days. Maybe this ranking is different for different people (?)
According to several neuroscientist's theories, memories fad with time to be replaced by more recent memories. Memories that have have deemed worthy of retaining can usually be kept if "re-visited" and brought to the forefront of our thinking. I love to scrapbook family photographs and it's a perfect way for me to keep those memories alive and exercising my brain. Not only is it a good way to recollect events, but serves as a good reference point when random questions arise....."What year did we go to Maine?"

 It's interesting though that memories are frequently revised and embellished, sometimes we only remember what we want to remember. Again it's the old self-preservation of the psyche, wanting to protect one's self. Who can blame you?
 
 However memories are triggered for you, they are an important part of what defines us as a person and helps to keep us mentally happy and healthy. Whatever form they take: a building, a photograph, the scent of your aunt's favorite casserole, just cherish them and let them be refreshed now and then so they don't become lost in a dusty, remote corner of the psyche. Bring on the nostalgia, it's good for the soul. JES

Friday, April 12, 2019

OMG! Not another acronym!


Long before texting and Facebook acronyms were in vogue, the pervasive use of acronyms in everyday conversations and written communications has been evident.  Think of the very first acronym you probably learned in elementary school, or earlier: the USA (United States of America) Some acronyms of this nature are so pervasive and commonly used, they take on a life of their own and almost become a word in and of themselves. 
Have you had your daily dose of alphabet soup today?

Yet many acronyms are only familiar to certain groups that use them with common shared interests. This frequently streamlines communications and assists in getting your message across…if the people you are conversing with understand what the acronym stands for.  How many times have you found yourself thinking….Oh Kaaaay, well what does that mean? The use of acronyms is very common and almost always found in a group of persons that share the same interest; they all use the same types of languages and phrases to share information about their common interest.
I was recently prompted to write about acronyms because of recent “overuse” of them in many modern conversations: especially pharmaceutical commercials. Oh Gracious! There are so many ailments that have been assigned so many different acronyms that even if you did become ill, how do you know what it is you are dealing with?  Also, how do you know if the recommended medication is for you? Obviously, talk to your doctor first. If you have reason to know what any of these letters stand for, I would imagine you would be discussing this with your medical provider….not pondering the possibilities from network television.  Nevertheless,  it is truly amazing the letters that get thrown out there frequently to confuse the subject matter. Bear in mind, too that you best not be mixing up your letters!   ED (Erectile Dysfunction) is quite different from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which is different from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  When you hear a commercial on NBC (National Broadcast Corporation) about MBC (Metastatic Breast Cancer) you will know that are talking about breast cancer, not the station affiliate. I heard that commercial several times and I thought they were saying NBC. Closer listening helped me to identify it as MBC.  I’m not making light of the illnesses, I am just saying it gets very confusing throwing all that verbiage around. There are so many more, but here are just a few: MD (Macular Degeneration), COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)….just to name a few.

Video Gamers, both on-line and solo versions, have developed a whole new language today including of course several acronyms for communicating with your fellow gamers. Here are a few that those who play are probably very familiar with: DD (Dungeons and Dragons), GG (Good Game) BG (Bad Game or Battleground, depending on the context), BRB (Be Right Back…even the most dedicated gamer has to take a bathroom break now and then…) DPS (Damage Per Second)

On the topics of sports and leisure, wow….the field of sports seems to even have the pharmaceuticals beat when it comes to the use of acronyms. Some of these are just so automatic; you don’t even think that the NFL stands for the National Football League….you just think NFL. Nevertheless here are a few more to load up your bowl of alphabet soup: AFC(American Football Conference, NFC (National Football Conference) NBA (National Basketball Association), WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League) PGA (Professional Golf Association)…..well, you get the idea and I bet you can name a whole lot more.

In the work place, acronyms are very pervasive and definitely serve their purpose.  Every occupation has their own set of acronyms and abbreviations used fluently and frequently. Since I am married to an engineer and have a son who is also an engineer I am “privy” to many of the acronyms used in that field.  Here is just a sampling: ASCE(American Society of Civil Engineers), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), PMP (Project Management Plan), PE(Professional Engineer), EIT(Engineer in Training), CEM (Certified Energy Manager), PPE(Personal Protection Equipment, safety glasses, etc,)

Sometimes awkward moments, and frequently humorous results, occur when conversations including acronyms are not understood by both parties. True story: a friend of mine was discussing current issues when the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement came up.  My friend was not familiar with that particular acronym and could not understand how the Bureau of Land Management-BLM fit in with that story. Embarrassment followed and a little light of recognition came on. Ohhhhh, that BLM! It is also funny how one extra letter can change the whole meaning: if you recently received a map and directions from your local AAA (American Automobile Association) you can find your way to your AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting.

The texting and Facebook acronyms open up a whole new category of acronyms that are too varied and numerous to include in this blog. Yet, I bet many of us know the frequently used ones, and choose to use our favorites time and again. Right?  LOL!(Laugh Out Loud) So I bid you adieu for now and TTYL(Talk To You Later) JES (not truly an acronym, but I use it a lot: Julie E. Smith)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Recreational/Medicinal: Let's talk Cannabis!



It has been quite awhile since I thought about smoking a joint or even pondered the possible health benefits of cannabis.  Yet, here I am thinking about quite a trendy topic that is making the news left and right.  A recent trip to a local  Health and Wellness Expo rekindled my interest in finding more about the use of hemp for health and wellness purposes.  Not so long ago, if you referred to “cannabis” people thought only of the “recreational” use of marijuana: the leaves were dried and smoked.  However, now cannabis, which refers to both Marijuana and Hemp, covers a whole variety of methods of consumption including hemp oil, topical creams and other concentrates that are smoked, vaporized and orally ingested. Yet with all this talk about cannabis, and legal considerations pending, it’s good to find out a little more about the product and to understand the pros and cons.

My husband and I had some really interesting discussions with two women at the Wellness Expo who were there representing HempWorx: Cindy Walkus and Lisa Bach.  They were able to explain many of the misconceptions about their product and the fact that the CBD component found in their products is non-hallucinogenic.  Hempworx sells a variety of consumer products that promote the medicinal qualities of CBD with a range of health and wellness qualities including  regulating blood sugar, healthy skin, and supporting digestive functions to name a few. For more information on hemp and their products, you can check the web site at:www.HempWorx.com
First it is good to understand the basics: Cannabis comes in two forms: Hemp and Marijuana. Cannabis plants contain a class of compounds called cannabinoids. The two most abundant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) THC is the element that provides the high and frequently includes negative side effects of paranoia and anxiety. CBD is an element that claims to have beneficial medicinal effects, without the marijuana high. The Nutrition Action Newsletter (published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest) reported about a panel from the National Academy of Medicine that concluded there are three established medical benefits of cannabis:
  • ·       “We found conclusive evidence that cannabis can reduce nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy”
  • ·       There is “substantial”evidence that cannabis modestly reduces self-reported involuntary muscle contractions in people with multiple sclerosis
  • ·       There is “substantial” evidence that cannabis modestly reduces chronic pain. “It’s not as strong as a narcotic pain reliever as an opiate, so it’s not as effective, but it may be more usable long term”, Pionelli (a panel member)noted.
So the jury is still out on other conclusive benefits for cannabis. As with many medications, differing results vary from person to person. As with many natural products, the use of CBD has not been evaluated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be very effective for some individuals. Endorsement by the FDA is not mandatory to be a good product, but nevertheless…it makes me a bit skeptical about the effectiveness of its medicinal properties.  Again, every person’s body chemistry is different.  What works for one individual, may not work for another.

King Crimson-in the Court of the Crimson King
Most people, when you discuss cannabis, think of marijuana and the recreational use of the drug, not the medicinal. When I was a high-school youth in the mid-70’s I tried marijuana for recreational purposes.  It was my experimental, “adventurous” phase.  I remember listening to Pink Floyd and King Crimson with friends…while high, of course.  “Oh, Dude…..totally, anybody remember King Crimson? Pretty awesome band.” 

In any case, my interest in using marijuana did not last. It may have been “fun” to experience the high, but I never really liked the feelings of paranoia and being out of touch with reality that went with it. That was the THC kicking in. (THC discussed in previous paragraph) I just decided it wasn’t for me. Yet, I do recall many years ago, a friend of our family was battling cancer and suffering the ill effects of chemotherapy. They knew that I could get some marijuana for them to help their friend.  Even back then, they knew that marijuana could help certain medical conditions. So moving forward, it is no wonder that so many people are starting to discover uses for this age old remedy. I would consider the use of Hemp for certain things; still weighing the options.

States are beginning to monitor and legislate both the use of hemp and marijuana.

It is hard to keep up with an updated count on all the legislative activity on this matter. Many have predicted that 2019 will continue to be a year of legislative reform throughout the country on both the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis. 
 Yet, whenever we decide to be for or against the legalization of a product, it is best to have a full understanding of the differences in the product and the impact they make. If you don’t understand the difference between hemp and marijuana then things get a little hazy. (pun intended)
So Cannabis is a product that is certainly in the limelight and will remain in discussions for both recreational and medicinal purposes. So before you judge, or light up a joint, be an informed consumer. JES