NPR requests isolation songs

“I Am, I said, to No One There,” (Neal Diamond), I sing as red-tailed hawks circle overhead and screech “We see you!” to affirm my being.

Went well with morning reading from Mark Nepo’s AWAKENING book, which told me is the “speaking of one’s heart,” which makes us human.

That thought goes well with hiking down hill and thinking what to write each day in my blog called Healthy2aHundred.

Laughter Best Medicine

Morning started out great when hysterical video received from friend at 7 a.m. showing New Normal of Quarantine.

Next opened favorite daybook AWAKENING and saw today, titled “The Next Step to Health”. How could poet Mark Nepo write something so appropriate for today, I wonder? Then realize it’s April 15th and taxes normally must be paid, so it does apply to each year. I’m lucky not to have that stress, since mine turned in early for first time in years. Another blessing for this day!

Finally up when sun streams in upper windows, causing sneezing before yoga. I can’t worry about disease when taking anti-aging potions recommended from LIFESPAN by Dr. Sinclair, right? Although look in mirror and see teeth looking browner. Could that be from those new drugs or is it due to three cups of coffee before getting up each morning?

“Copious cups of coffee” said to be drunk in Blue Zones (those where people live at much greater ages to 100), so even though knowing for sure that only 3 of the 5 drink coffee (Greece, Italy and Costa Rica; not Loma Linda Adventists or Okinawans who drink tea), I’ve made it my new daily habit to have a delicious 3rd cup from Keurig, leaving the 2-hour old last cup in pot for husband; telling myself he likes the ease of pouring from pot.

Finally done with yoga, headed uphill with dog, realize very cold wind blowing from northeast. I’d thought days were warming and only thrown on a light windbreaker over tank top. Now I think might go back for heavier jacket, but remember that in LIFESPAN Sinclair said it stimulates and improves immune system if we allow ourselves to get very cold.

He suggests going from heat of sauna or hot tub and rolling in snow like done in Sweden; but, also, says that colder sleeping is beneficial, so perhaps this colder walking will be extremely healthy on this day.

I’m a bit warmer I realize, since wore work gloves today so can stop at mules’ corral on way back and clear it of tall spiky dead weeds left from last summer. Mule stepped on a sharp stub last year and became lame in back foot. Best clear weeds with hoe, not mow which leaves spikes; as even when stepping myself on stubs of huge weeds it felt last year as if might poke through my boots.

Reminds me that farrier will be needed soon. I wonder if he’s considered “essential” or willing to sneak out to our farm to trim hooves not done since late December. Reminds me of prohibition when people sneaking into speakeasies with fear of getting arrested. Things must be done!

Hoof trimming essential on dun molly who starts fussing if back feet held up longer than she thinks is necessary. Previous owners said she used to have shoes on feet, but with new owner and different farrier (even after 4 years), she’s decided will tell us when enough is enough, so I hope he says can come.

Be good if that’s my only worry for today. I’ve told husband and friends will hook hdmi cable to big TV and show video for him at Happy Hour time, ours still 5:00 on working farm, but some friends tell me maybe they’ll start earlier as shown in video. Whenever you decide, lift a glass, say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!” — join us and stay well!

Box Breathing Helps Sleep

Always something joyful to see when living on a farm. Two weeks ago in the hay barn I’d seen a nest with 12 eggs, last week a dark brown hen setting on it, today when at barn, I find things have completely changed and now 3 eggs alone in that nest. No evidence of any shells in nest (chicks and mom eat for the calcium), so makes me think a hen somewhere has a large flock of little ones.

I’ll keep my eyes open for her when by barn and pasture next time. Comes to mind that will be rooster stew at farmworker housing eventually, since we want hens for eggs, but can’t have roosters crowing to bother sleepers and seems like each batch is about half males. As usual, males tend to have it tougher on a farm.

For today, I used black pen to mark those eggs with tiny x on their small end so can start taking out the freshly laid eggs every couple days. Believe it’s time for this hen to contribute to our survival rations needed at home.

Realized earlier as walking up hill with big white dog on this gorgeous sunny spring day that it was probably important to actually WRITE OUT the 16-second Box Breathing method, since I know that if readers depressed when reading the last post, it may seem like too much work to click on another link and read the whole story about SEALS and Box Breathing.

Therefore, sweet and simple so those with anxiety keeping them awake at night can try, such as was needed again last night for me; felt was unsuccessful, as had to keep pushing away anxious thoughts and starting over with the tedious Box Breathing, getting up several times in night to wet throat that might have been starting to feel sore (probably hypochondria as more sensitive lately to new aches and pains, seems fine now).

Eventually when I woke at 6:34 a.m., I felt good energy and enthusiasm towards the day (immediately thinking must let dog out of crate!!!), so perhaps slept more than thought.

Here’s the box breathing — following quoted straight from the article (which I hope is okay with them):

You’ll see that each of the four steps is done for four seconds, hence the box part of the title. It will only take you 16 seconds to cycle through the method one time. Just repeat the cycle as long as it takes you to feel relaxed.

  1. Breathe in for four seconds. Make sure all the air has been expelled from your lungs before you start to inhale. Once you start sucking up your air, make sure to really fill those lungs.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds. No more inhaling at this point, and don’t let any air escape yet.
  3. Exhale for four seconds. Let the air out of your lungs at an even rate for the whole stretch of time, and make sure to get it all out.
  4. Hold your lungs empty for four seconds. It may be tempting to suck in some more air immediately after letting it all out, but just hang on for four.

That’s it, end of quoted material, from link in previous post. They say can be used in stressful situations to calm self, as the SEALS sometimes find themselves in.

I’ve only actually tried it when anxious at night and needing to fall asleep, so fear that if using it during the day it might make me nod off. Probably not what is wanted, although if I find myself in a Fight or Flight-type situation, then perhaps I can remember to give Box Breathing a try before reacting.

I posted previously another excerpt from article saying that to be sure your lungs are staying healthy, HOLD BREATH FOR 10 SECONDS EACH DAY.

I find it easier to do that as part of the morning’s 10-minute yoga routine. That routine is very much a mindfulness practice, so if you’re looking for a mindfulness practice during these stressful times, trying this routine might be exactly “what the doctor ordered.” Stay well!

Box Breathing

Saw article about SEALS using Box Breathing method in stressful situations. Have tried doing this last 4 nights and it seems to put me to sleep as quickly as the .25mg Ambien was using until realized that this quick-acting seductive drug can cause memory problems; and even using it I was still waking at 3 a.m. Stopped taking Ambien a year ago, started again to have trouble at times falling asleep, especially after the 3 a.m. wake time.

Tried this Box Breathing (the link is above, can’t seem to get it to embed) which is surprisingly difficult and tedious (both the box breathing and the WordPress), but apparently box breathing works, as the only thing I’ve been remembering, even sometimes now when waking after full sleep at 6 a.m., is that I was just about wanting to give up on repetition 4 or 5 of the breathing. Nothing after that, no tossing and turning and throwing blankets on and off. Sound familiar to anyone?

Last night sleep was especially challenging, as the big white dog did not come back after I let her out of the e-yard to “get the coyotes!” A nightly beloved ritual for her and the tiny dog once they hear coyotes howling as night falls. Dogs usually come back to the house after predators are moved away; perhaps 15 minutes, although big dog had been slower to return night before and then last night did not come at all.

Even dog whistle hadn’t worked its usual magic; this morning husband said it’s because the small doggy has moved over to the farm shop where she seems to get more attention from the kids and prefers being away from the heavy paws of big white dog playfully batting at her. I think he’s right, as usual, in that big dog considers the small dog her pack and most likely spent the night near and protecting that area.

I’m cringing to think of farm workers or neighbors calling to tell us about hearing barking all night. Reason, I’ve read, that this Great Pyrenees breed is often needing to be re-homed. Their instincts require them to be on guard over their herds all night and barking is primary way they keep predators at bay.

Plus, other owners have told me the dogs can roam for 10 miles at night. As noted before, not good if she thinks to bring neighbors’ goats back to our farm or retrieves chickens to bring home (she had a flock of her own when young at previous home) and I’ve rescued a few, but it seems more often that her big jaws accidentally kill them. I’ve noticed hens on nests in the hay barn, so don’t want her finding those; she must stay home.

Therefore, last night was challenging, as I woke at 4 a.m. to her barking, which fortunately as she’s aged and gotten larger (will be 3 later this year, about 120 lbs) has become a very low and almost pleasant basso profundo. I got up, she reluctantly came and went into garage where she normally sleeps so as not to disturb us or others.

Was 4:24 when finally back to bed, I started the Box Breathing and next thing I knew, was looking at clock saying 6:12 a.m. The normal wake time; the normal NPR playing on radio. Again, the breathing seemed to work, so I’ve decided to share it here.

After getting coffee, doing journals with fire on, reading MINDFUL LOVING by Grayson and AWAKENING by Nepo (both highly recommended for those of us who grew up feeling “not enough”), I enjoyed making bed carefully and changed into workout clothes for normal routine.

Did yoga, started reluctantly on 8-minute balance and core building; finished the balance part, started the planks, then suddenly realized that my intent was to do this up on the hill where a perfect spot to film video was located.

Excellent location, since it has a big granite rock to put back against while doing wall sit, plus, a flattish area for the balance and planks. Made “perfect” by presence of a mock orange tree growing just behind and above rocks for beauty when it blooms in a few weeks. This will be the year video gets made. I’m certain now of that, so headed eagerly out.

Grateful for a gorgeous sunny spring day, I hiked up the hill with a dog who clearly was more mellow and tired from “working” the entire night. I spread out my mat by rocks and did routine. Big dog sat calmly through whole routine so I think now she’ll be a nice addition in the video.

Harder to balance there since ground uneven, but successfully done and making me happier than usual to have views across beautiful valley. I heard people’s voices on hills in distance, so it appears neighbors and children are getting out for exercise in the wide open areas..

Wishing well to others, as we stay apart until a vaccine is found or test shows we carry antibodies. Please try the Box Breathing if you’ve had trouble sleeping; I hope it will help and wish staying well for all.

Big White Dog Lightens Mood

Woke to NPR telling us to be sure we know where people are, said if leaving home to have them tell us when plan to be back. Most likely due to NYC elderly dying at home alone?

Sobering to think of, but I text my younger brother and ask him to secure plots at a rural cemetery where oak trees overhang the historical small town’s headstones. Much more pleasant to visit parents there than place they have planned. Shall we tell them or just do it?

Was his idea originally, so tell him a very good idea and we’ll figure out how to sell the plot they have purchased for themselves at a once-rural, but now huge cemetery surrounded by businesses and traffic. Told him I wouldn’t relish the idea of visiting them that busy spot, so nicer if we start a family area at the far out rural town where our dad’s brother, a favorite uncle, is buried. Might be another 50 years before the city encroaches on that wide open farming area.

Then walk up hill with husband, who I’m pleased to find going more often for exercise now that “sheltering in place.” He’s at high risk if infected by flu viruses, as had pneumonia twice (once from Hong Kong flu in 1968, then again from normal cold ten years later) and punctured a lung in serious car accident in 1989, so is trying to stay away from farm workers and handle work management on phone, since tells me he sees younger kids often piling into cars with older brothers and heading out towards more public areas.

Not sure the kids understand to wash hands thoroughly when return or wear something over faces when in public or if being around older people. I talked on phone to my mother yesterday and it’s clear to me that she doesn’t take seriously enough the hand washing and covering face advice needed; one reason I’m thinking about funeral and memorial service arrangements and wondering how I’ll get there if needed.

NPR was interviewing a funeral home director who made it clear that bodies do not have to be cremated, even if dying from Covid-19.

Anyway, as started back downhill and half mile from home, I realize the big white dog is not with us. Whistle and her big white body is easy to see then on hillside coming out of bushes. Am relieved to know she’s coming, as I’ve had to leave before or go try find her when she decides her “work” of chasing coyotes or digging after groundhogs is more important than my call.

I usually wait now and leash her for last quarter mile as found she heads automatically towards farm worker housing to chase chickens or towards neighboring farms where she thinks their goats should be brought back to “her” farm. I know she’d love a real job at our farm, but am not willing to take on responsibility of goats, as we’ve “been there, done that.” Never again.

Gross! So Gross!!! “Look at her,” we exclaim when see white fur covered with black and brown on back and one side. Smell something awful. Clearly she’s found something dead and maggot-y to roll in. “Get away from me,” I shriek as she heads my way, but realize I need to leash her, so hold my breath and grab collar on the clearer side.

I’ve trained her to walk close to me so I can put my hand on her back when at steep areas heading downhill where tripping is likely, so it confuses her when I now say “Out,” to move her away from me a few feet. I start jogging down hill and tell husband will get the trip over with more quickly. Ask him to please hook up the outside faucet where we have warmer water, as was turned off for winter, so I can bathe her when home.

Just another aspect of life with animals. I put her in pen with food and then head in to mix up our LIFESPAN potions and eat breakfast before tackling that nasty chore. Certainly a good task to take my mind off of possibly burying parents before expected.

Will write note to parents with safer hygiene practices in big letters and mail later; perhaps mother will keep on counter where can see and remind both when coming into house. Until next time, hoping all friends and family are washing hands and staying well!

Safety from Virus

Each morning before getting up to do yoga, I read day’s entry from THE BOOK OF AWAKENING by Mark Nepo. Lovely, poetry-like readings that remind me each day that whatever I am is okay and the only way to live a valuable life is to allow our own individual spirits to have freedom; it gives me reassurance in these strange times that this too shall pass.

Today’s entry in AWAKENING was headed We Share the Same River. The meditation at end reminds as you breathe to “feel the life of everything swell thru you.” Similar to what MINDFUL LOVING said when telling me that positive and generous and loving thoughts will go out to those around us and create a better living situation for all.

A few days ago the AWAKENING entry was topped with a quote by Rumi, “Say whatever your pained heart chooses.” That, of course, encourages me to write and keep blog alive; as for some reason I was given this mission to encourage healthier living towards the goal of better old age.

Therefore, today, here are what I think are most important few things we’ve learned about avoiding infection of coronavirus until a vaccine can be offered or enough people can be tested so we know who has anti-bodies; distilled from hours of TV, pages of Wall Street Journal and hours spent reading on-line articles.

  1. STAY HOME. If you must go out where people are, stay 6’ apart and take following precautions.
  2. WEAR A MASK whenever going to be near other people or in places they have recently been. Face covering of any kind protects both you and others. It is also an effective way to keep you from touching eyes and nose, which are said to be primary entry spots for the virus into our bodies. No mask available? Wear a bandanna, scarf, beekeeper’s helmet, camper’s insect netting. Anything to remind you not to touch eyes and nose.
  3. WASH HANDS frequently. At least EVERY TIME you enter your home from outside. My favorite way to do the recommended 20-seconds is to sing the A-B-C song. Have heard can sing Happy Birthday twice. Wearing latex gloves, if you can find them, will remind you not to touch your face; some say they are easier to wash and will protect hands from drying.
  4. KEEP AWAY FROM HOSPITAL. Only go there if you CANNOT BREATHE. Otherwise, you risk exposing self to the virus. News said that people with sore throat are thought to build up anti-bodies that can then protect lungs, so sore throat is a good sign. Until you have trouble breathing, best to stay home and treat as if you have a regular flu or cold. Those can be miserable, also, but not as deadly as Covid-19 once it gets to your lungs.
  5. DRINK WATER FREQUENTLY. Not on the usual list of things to do, but I did see it in one posting to wash germs to stomach where they can be killed, which makes sense to me. Also, frequent water drinking is mandated for better health from the Loma Linda Blue Zone people, so I have a special fondness for passing on this tip.

Time to go out now and move mules to bigger pasture turning green. They’ll enjoy that, but then my worry will be about founder. Perhaps founder is a situation that develops to tell mules to stop eating so much? If I see limping shall I just watch it and wait or take them off pasture right away? Many things to worry about with animals. Llamas are harder to catch and halter, so waiting until tomorrow to take on that chore.

Again, hoping for all I know to start yoga (which will give you the discipline to do the other healthy things), start aerobics, start core and balance exercises, start intermittent fasting, start healthier plant-based eating the Blue Zones Way and mostly, Stay Well!

Shelter-in-Place a Bit Longer

Sunday morning is for spiritual reading while fire burns cozily to take chill off sight of cold, gray day and dead brown hills out windows. Eerily quiet with shelter-in-place orders, as I’m missing the normal susurration of traffic on highways below my windows that I tell myself sounds like ocean waves to help me sleep.

I open a book received for Christmas called MINDFUL LOVING: 10 Practices for Creating Deeper Connections by Henry Grayson, PhD.

Reading first parts and finding it lovely with information about author’s journey from steady church upbringing while young (a wrathful God), his move towards atheism and agnosticism, returning to a spirituality that seems to encompass a more-loving God that he says embodied in all of us as human beings.

A different perspective than past Sundays’ book, MERE CHRISTIANITY. But both authors somewhat echo a journey I’ve felt in my life, so I’m interested in what Dr. Grayson, a marriage counselor, says next about building better relationships and stronger happier marriages. Never enough joy and happiness in these stressful times, right?

Difficult reading in first chapter as he’s citing both renowned physicists and world’s religions to show how he arrived at his understanding of our relationship with God and how we use that to help us in relationships with each other.

I leave it eventually and walk uphill with dogs as gorgeous sun comes out. So great to be breathing fresh air, seeing coyotes race across fields and green just appearing on bushes. I remind self when back to feed mules and llamas or fences will get pushed over, not quite enough grass in pasture yet.

I think while walking of response drafted to my brother’s Facebook post gently chiding me for being, perhaps, fatalistic in saying that harm to economy must be considered as well as harm to humans. Decide it can be this stand-alone blog post, since travel and time constraints have not allowed writing lately.

I’m very fortunate to have a greatly compassionate little brother, who I’ve hardly known over the years, as left home when he was only 6 years old. He’s taken on the huge responsibility of helping our “extreme”-elderly parents several times each week in recent years.

I hope he realizes that he’s very appreciated by both his siblings and his parents — from whom I’ve heard enough now about the “really good” son they raised that helps them and brings by food, as opposed (I’m hearing) to those older girls who moved away. I calm myself and know that I’m being the best daughter I’m capable of, even if not mentioned.

My brother said he thought perhaps I’d never had the flu, which is wrong — I know it makes you wish to die. One reason I get flu shots each year; many don’t. I hope to avoid flu and all other diseases of aging if at all possible. There’s no question this is a horrible situation the world finds itself in right now. Similar, though, to pandemics over the ages, which is one reason I posted that graph previously.

Perhaps nature means to wipe out some people every generation. Although, we’re hearing now that Bill Gates told us 5 years ago that this would happen. Why then, I’m wondering, didn’t he stock up on masks and ventilators to help save the world. Doesn’t he care about us as much as other places he’s spending money? Probably both he and Jeff Bezos doing more than I know.

However, to continue on-topic. I continue to see that mostly old or health-compromised people are killed by Covid-19, in numbers that don’t seem great in U.S. compared to those likely to be infected; but my brother’s right, of course, in that some younger healthy people will become ill and possibly suffer for years afterwards. Unfair things are always happening to good people; the downside of living.

Depression. Isolation. Anxiety. Suicide. Alcohol. Drugs. Domestic violence. Those kill, also. Increasing risks when jobs are closed, income is lost, retirement funds disappear, future seems so uncertain.

Maybe we’ll know enough soon to change things before the situation becomes desperate for many who are not at huge risk. Maybe we’ll be lucky and people will get in the spirit of helping all get through this situation, lessening risks of deaths from non-virus causes.

As I appreciate my BFF pointing out in same FB post, this is a perplexing situation. Therefore, many different perspectives will go into figuring out what to do; most certainly never pleasing everyone.

In the meantime, may those whom we each specifically love and want to keep safe, both old and young, somehow make it through this time.

Gov’ts Over-React to CV?

Yesterday I posted on my FB page saying this a good time for “older people” to start yoga since governments requiring citizens to shelter-in-place. Suggested that using HDMI cable to show yoga video on large-screen TV makes it much more impressive and believable, apparently, as husband got down on floor and tried to follow along. Really hard for him, like trying to bend a 2×4 he’s said in past, but I encourage keep at it as eventually may get more flexible and deep breathing very good in a time like this.

Today my sister sent me a level-headed article with nice graphs pointing out that most CV infections are mild to moderate. Asking if saving a few elderly and health-compromised people (often due to their own actions) is worth burden of debt we’ll be leaving to children and grandchildren. Seems worth sharing, so I’ve attached link at end.

Possibly healthier elders like me, with no biological children therefore no built-in reason for living, in some opinions, should volunteer for vaccine testing, but I’m not going to do it and, instead, encourage my friends to get and try stay healthier themselves, as I’m hoping we’ll all see each other somewhere on the other side of this pandemic.

Better Eating Needs Focus

Healthy eating is most difficult part of this program for me, so luckily a Blue Zones link popped up in email about Loma Linda, which I’m sharing, as has ideas about food choices. Although, truly, the Italian Blue Zone my favorite, with its sourdough bread, hard white cheese and red wine.

Jogging today was harder, since a bit off schedule during family visits. Although, I’m happy to be back to routine and during walk periods think about good examples demonstrated, with some family completely off sugar now — amazing discipline!

Other family is vegetarian and for a few days we had fake meat chili and other meals with tofu options, vegetables, oven-baked sweet potato fries and big salads. Food was delicious, but what a lot of chopping and saute-ing and so forth. Work made light by many hands, but harder to get motivation now when just two of us to feed and very hard to get husband to feel meal is complete without meat. Says the fake kind doesn’t do it for him; I tell him we must need to flavor it better.

I try to make it easy by buying packaged vegetable saute kits (really, delish!), by buying packaged salad kits, but still find myself having too many processed foods (such as, chicken burrito bowls from Costco) or, worse, Thin Mint cookies with tea each afternoon (so hard to resist and nice to help those Girl Scouts, right?)

Now the Weekend WSJ had big article telling us, pretty much, that Blue Zones way of eating, with little meat and many vegetables, is better than trying diet after diet. The article called We Actually Know What We Should Eat specifically mentions that we’d know to choose chickpeas (also known as garbanzos) over Doritos.

I cringe, as my favorite each evening while watching news is to down large amounts of tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole. Seem to crave that salt, especially with beer, and reminds me of times in Mexico, so maybe good memories help offset some badness of deep-fried item.

Did see and try a recipe which made round sweet potato slices into “healthy” chips for nachos by brushing with olive oil and baking until slightly crispy, grate some cheese over and drizzle with salsa. What a lot of work that was! Yummy, but I won’t actually do it again.

Maybe just eating in “moderation” with intermittent fasting one day a week now and moving meals to twice a day so as to fit within 10 hour period will do the job to keep us healthy and offset some of my fried food splurges.

How do others handle healthier eating? Ideas to make it easy are welcome!

Yoga Eases Anxiety

Saturday’s Weekend WSJ had wonderful article about William James, called the founding father of psychology, who wrote book in 1890. Over one hundred years ago and yet its words speak so well to helping calm today’s worries.

I hadn’t known before that it says “the Yoga discipline [may be a] methodical way of waking up deeper levels of will power than are habitually used, and thereby increasing an individual’s vital tone and energy.”

Seems perfect for me to pass on that quote and post what I’d started several days ago about anxiety. I hadn’t posted due to expecting increased anxiety if posting about my crazy unwanted mental states, although they well known by friends, so what’s to be worried about? I’d started with title at top, then written following:

Anxiety is senseless, useless, not needed, but for some there seems no way of escaping its torment. I remember while taking care of elderly over twenty years the many women with baseless frustrating anxiety; how extremely wearing and mentally challenging that was for caregivers.

I don’t want to drive others and myself crazy by being like that and must find ways to calm self; to see the “longer view” as husband says. Have read that anxiety useful in past eras to keep families safe from danger. Will appreciate some part of it, yet learn how to let it go when not helpful.

Clearly no need for me to wake each morning anxious with things needing to be done flooding through mind; anxious about parents aging and need help preparing taxes, soon help with living; anxious about getting own taxes done in time, as computer program froze, will require hours on phone, printer out of ink, so many frustrations; anxious about stupid things done in past, about making new mistakes; anxious about things said that someone took wrong, so many things to be anxious about.

Most helpful is morning yoga. To breathe in Good-good-good while inhaling deeply and breathe out very forcefully exhaling Bad-Bad-Bad. Over and over with the yoga poses. I find William James was right and finish feeling “vital tone and energy.” A better way to start each day.

Post video again for those who need a nudge to start an easy yoga routine.