Archive for February 2015

Fighting Alzheimer’s Every School Day   Leave a comment

You know what they say.  The more you can keep your brain active and working as you age, the less likely that you will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

I have always thought that homeschooling parents have a leg up on this goal.  Our brains are working every day by definition.  I know that teaching division, Algebra I, history and more does a lot for me.  It may not be a Sudoku or a crossword, but I think it meets the goal of doing a task that is mentally challenging.

While I have stuck with the same core curriculum through the years, the curriculum company has made some text changes as time has gone by.  With each student, when I either purchase the new teacher’s manual or look at the current book list, I can see they have pulled out a few books (some I was glad to see go, such as The Dark Frigate; most I was sorry to see go) and added some new ones.

This year in the American history course we read World War II and How it Affects you Today: The Rest of the StoryWhatever Happened to Penny Candy? by the same author was a helpful explanation of economics, inflation and all those esoteric topics, and I have now read that twice and will read again with my youngest student this school year, but I had not read anything by this author on war history.

Because it looked quite different from the standard historian’s view of the whys and wherefores of WWII, I told my daughter she could read the fiction selection by herself for this time period; I was definitely reading World War II out loud with her.

What an eye opener.  Disagreeing with the standard explanations of why the US got into WWII, the author makes a case against the idea that the Germans and Japanese were such vicious fighting machines that England and our other allies would have been destroyed without our help.

Potentially changing the way you see the world and considering the possibility that what you’ve been led to believe is false will keep a mind active.

Another way I’ve been keeping Alzheimer’s at bay is learning to play chess.

At my age, it’s difficult to retain all the rules.  And even when I do remember exactly what moves each of my pieces can make, that does not mean that I will notice what dangers I’m moving them into.  I am planning ahead, checking out possible dangers for the square I have in mind, coming up with long-term strategies for taking my opponent’s queen and getting at his king: all that stuff.  It’s just not working yet.

What really makes it embarrassing is that the person teaching me is ten years old.  I lost my queen to him in our play yesterday in the course of ten minutes tops.

And no, I’m not letting him win.  It’s just happening.

But I can be a good sport.

At least I’m fighting the loss of brain cells!


Posted February 26, 2015 by swanatbagend in learning

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What Doctors Don’t Know   2 comments

I’m not sure how to put this.  It’s an observation based on all the doctors I have known.  This is it:

Doctors don’t know what they don’t know.

Self evident, I’m sure, once you’ve been in enough waiting rooms and offices.

I’m mentioning it just for food for thought as you look for answers to the latest flu virus, round of strep or pink eye, or your latest concern about your child’s development.  People have a tendency to believe that a doctor knows more than they do.  Yes, any given doctor does know much more than you do about things medical and biological and pharmacological, most likely.  So that’s true.

The problem is that any one doctor will not know how to solve your problem, unless your problem is a problem they’ve been taught to solve.

You might have a problem that particular doctor did not study and does not know about.

You might have a problem that is multifaceted.  It might be caused by malfunctions in more than one body system.  You might have a problem that most doctors aren’t even looking for.  If they aren’t looking, they aren’t going to find it.

Take autism, a disability that is caused by multiple factors.  Also one that we still don’t even have half the answers.  We have a great many theories, and there are great many therapies and medications that can be tried, many of which are helpful to any given child, some of which may not help same child.

But in this example, if your child’s symptoms of autism are 80% caused by a virus that has taken up residence in his body, but your doctor wasn’t taught to look for viruses that could be affecting your child’s behavior, you will get sold a different set of solutions.  Behavioral therapies, anti-anxiety medication, social skills groups, occupational therapy: all of these have their place in treating children with autism.  Yet there can be other causes of the difficulties nobody is looking for.

Another example of “not seeing” is chronic Lyme disease.  People dealing with this can be told they have any number of neurological and physiological problems.  Maybe even mental health problems.  Then a person finally sees a doctor who takes a few or many steps backward and looks for the bigger picture, runs some lab tests, and finds the Lyme spirochete.  You can’t get better if you don’t actually know what’s causing the problem.

Doctors work hard to know all that they can, because they want to help the patients they see.  But they are only human and can’t help only knowing what they know.

I suppose it should not be surprising that when a doctor has done all she can, and provided all the suggestions for lifestyle changes she knows, and had you try all the supplements and medications that she thinks might be helpful to you, that this doctor may be strongly tempted to tell you you’re better, even when you don’t feel better.

I can understand that tendency.  I’d probably do the same thing.

But having worked with doctors over time, I’d say the reality at that moment is that the doctor just doesn’t know what else to do.

Maybe another one does.

Keep looking.

Posted February 18, 2015 by swanatbagend in health

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Like Pioneer Women   Leave a comment

So I’m not much like a pioneer woman.  But over the past eight years of my life, I have marked out a significant way in which I definitely work like they did.

It’s not anything to do with making jam and pickles, although I do that.

Nor is it manuring the garden, turning the earth, planting seeds, although I do that.  Cooking the green beans and using up all the cucumbers–I specialize in that also.

It’s absolutely nothing to do with sewing or quilting, because beyond replacing lost buttons, I know nothing about sewing.

I do know a few things about “birthin’ a baby,” which I suppose pioneer women knew as well.

I’m thinking of my life socially.  I suspect living in the country and homeschooling have led to the current arrangement , which probably should not surprise me.  If my children were at a school daily, or even several times a week, my trajectory would be altered.

When I was a child and in public school, I saw teachers and other kids five days a week. In high school add in dances or slumber parties and I had contact with my friends almost every day of the week.  If youth group was on Sunday night….whcih I believe it was, make that seven days.

You get used to that level of interaction, although believe me I felt the need for time alone.  That’s why when I got home, I would not go out to play.  My street was full of kids, and I needed to be alone with books for at least an hour.

That’s why I think that my interactions feel so different now.  It’s difficult to change your early internal programming.

Now, I see other adults when I take my son and daughter to appointments or classes or co-ops.  And I see my friends when I make an appointment to see them.  Gratefully, I’m friends with my children’s friend’s mothers (or perhaps, they have become friends with the children of my friends), so we all get time together when we work out an afternoon to see them.

But, we don’t see the often.  We certainly don’t see them every day.

That is why I thinks of pioneer women.  They saw other women when there was a community event, such as a quilting bee or barn raising.  A farming wife, if blessed, had a church near her homestead, and she was able to enjoy company on the Sabbath.  Other than that–it was children, husband and her own thoughts.

So those times with friends are much-anticipated, and much appreciated.



Posted February 11, 2015 by swanatbagend in community

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No Good Thing   Leave a comment

Every so often, and much more than I would like, something or some one I thought was essential to my existence goes away.

It can be a friend, a store I liked to shop at, something as small as a flower or plant in the yard that just gives up the ghost.  It’s actually not usually anything big, thank heavens.  Also, more than likely I won’t notice the something small or medium that’s gone, until it’s been a couple years down the road, because you know how those things are–you usually don’t lose something all at once.  It just fades.

So my funny example is Yahoogroups.  Mailing lists and groups used to be all the rage.  Just such a list kept my sanity through many years when my children were small.  I am still in contact with the friends I made there.  Contact is rare, though not finished (thanks to social media, which is usually another of God’s good gifts).  However, those Yahoogroups that I could not have lived without 15, 10 years ago?  Today, they are mainly silent, and mostly extinct.  I only know of two that are still going, with diminished volume.  I had just gotten used to having a safe place to vent and share my heart!  Life has moved on to other means of doing things, and I do feel the loss.

I am thankful for what it was while it lasted, and today, I strung these thoughts together as a way to acknowledge the change and what I miss, but what I’m looking toward:

Lord, thank you for the good gifts you gave me today.

Thank you for each thing good about today, even though I know I may not receive these gifts again.

Thank you that, even if after today there’s a long blank in my life, I know that in the far future all will be good, better than I can imagine.

And I thank you that some day, the far future will be near.


Posted February 8, 2015 by swanatbagend in reality

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Cats   1 comment

Which of all the cats I have known well is my favorite?  They are all so different; with each there is a story, and it is understandable that we know each cat differently and have preferences.

Moter: his name was misspelled because I stuck to my error with 8-year-old determination not to admit a fault.  He was my first cat, the one I begged for months to get.  When my dad and I went to “interview” him, he strolled right to us, purring so loudly, and won my heart right away.  He was a large marmalade tom who tolerated two small children very well.  He went outside every night and was on the porch railing each morning to get our attention outside the window where we ate breakfast.  We couldn’t hear him meow because it was double pained glass.  But we could see him.  And we could sure hear him purring.  Never had a louder cat.  Hence the name.

I lost him when we moved from Alaska to Montana, because Mom and Dad didn’t think we could move a pet that far.  After we moved, he ran away from the people who had taken him, and I don’t think they ever found him.  Heartbreaking.  I don’t think my parents chose to not move a pet again.

Later, my brother chose a kitten who turned out be even bigger and lovelier than Moter as far as looks.  Max was darling, and grew up pleasingly large with dark tabby markings and huge green eyes.  People always commented, “what a beautiful cat.”

Of course he wasn’t mine the way Hobbes was.  I picked her out after I married and my husband already had a cat.  I wanted one of my own, a kitten.  I had no idea how hard it would be to find a kitten in October.  Finally we called someone who still had a kitten left from the newspaper ad they had placed.  We rushed out to see it.  I sat down, she got in my lap, and started playing with the cord of my hood.  I fell in love that moment.  And it was a good thing, because Hobbes was a nut case.  She peed in corners, cried at the wrong times, ate rubber bands and nursed on her surrogate sister, who, as far as we know, never gave her any actual milk.  She needed me because nobody else would have put up with her.

I named her after the Hobbes in Calvin and Hobbes, as she was another stripey cat and I loved that comic strip.  Only later did I learn she was a female.  She had an attention to detail that did help us at times.  She noticed a shorting outlet in our apartment and stared at the spark she saw, making a squeaky noise.  I never would have noticed that if she hadn’t shown it to us.

Jigs was my husband’s cat, the best-natured I’ve ever had in her own “you may worship me now” way.  Moter was more personable, I think, but Jigs had a certain charm, after she got over my getting in her space.  I think she thought she was there first.  She used to chew my sandals when I would go to my then fiancée’s apartment.  But after he and I were married, she warmed up.  She was the only cat I’ve ever known who would approach a crying person, meowing, and get in the person’s lap and look in her face to ascertain the problem and what she could do to help her feel better.  And if you won her favor, you would receive a “puh,” which is a gentle pat on the nose with a velvet paw.

Annie found me one summer day.  She was my only long hair, a kitten who had been abandoned by the side of the country road we lived on when my oldest son was young.  I brought her home, cleaned her up, took her to the vet, and was only going to keep her until I could find someone who wanted her.  But she stuck to us.  She played with my two-year old.  When someone actually said she’d take her, I suddenly changed my mind.

For years I didn’t have an inside cat, due to dealing with kids and not wanting to deal with fleas.

But, I had given birth to three children and at least one was bound to inherit the cat gene I had.  (You can have either the cat or dog gene.)  Despite my husband’s being a dog person, guess which animal the kids adore?

So, my then 9-year-old daughter was begging me for a cat.  For months.

Finally, I gave in and let her pick an adult cat from the pound for her birthday.  This cat she named Terry, after her aunt’s cat Carrie.

Terry is another beautiful dark-haired tabby cat and her role was to prove to me that I could have an indoor cat again, that a cat could be good in every way.  She used the litter box only.  She drank from her water bowl.  She didn’t claw or scratch us.  She used her scratching post.  She sat on laps.  She is the best cat I’ve ever had, as far as behavior goes.

So she inspired me to get another cat.  Of course!  I picked out a kitten because I hadn’t had that pleasure in 20 plus years.  I brought home a smoke grey male kitten, who promptly grew up to teach her all his bad tricks (like opening doors), so I could have two bad cats.  However, since I picked him out all by myself, I fell in love with him, and Boris has been weaseling his way into hearts ever since he gaily bounced along behind the kids the first day I brought him home.  No need for this kitten to be put in a cozy box in a small space in order to slowly adjust to his new surroundings.  He was scampering to and fro and purring from the minute he came in our door, ears pricked on his too-big head, to see where he was.

He’s my baby now, even though he is almost three in people years and I guess in his twenties in cat years.  He loves to sit on my lap and purr first thing in the morning.  That would be when I haven’t even made it off the toilet.  And he comes to cuddle in the bed some nights, usually the ones when I could use a purring furry weight next to me.  He’s a pill sometimes, but I’m awfully fond of him.

I think that of the cats I have known, the ones I chose myself were my favorites.  Or maybe they chose me?

Posted February 5, 2015 by swanatbagend in cats

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