Saturday, December 31, 2011

Turning the Page to 2012

New Year's has always been one of my favorite holidays. My first recollection of celebrating is New Year's 1963, when my big brother bet me a whole dime that I couldn't stay awake until midnight.

Never one to easily shrink from a challenge, I became ten cents richer when 1964 was ushered in.

So, perhaps "staying awake" is something of which I will want to do more in 2012...being more observant, more deliberate, more patient, more thoughtful in lending my voice to the human chorus, and more willing to take intelligent risks.

Much as been said about how horrible 2011 has been. Well, here are some wonderful things I've experienced:

In a previous post, I told about how enriched I felt when I heard Jason Poole speak at my church about "showing up and saying yes." With self-interest still being a major principle in today's world, perhaps I should ask myself what would I lose--or more importantly, gain--by "saying yes" to needs I see around me.

One treasure I'm been meaning to share with readers is a show I discovered recently on byuTV, "The Story Trek." They have a Facebook page (which I've "liked") and are mentioned on I'm not a Mormon, but I count many of them among my dear old friends from Burbank High School, and am honored by their love. "The Story Trek" is a utterly heartwarming show, as host Todd Hansen goes into the heart of everyday towns, and finds "ordinary people" to tell their "extraordinary stories." In a day when television is loaded with so-called "reality shows," I find shows of this caliber so very refreshing. They've just wrapped their season finale; I can't wait to see more.

In 2011, I have continued to watch "Music and the Spoken Word," with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Fine-arts fan that I am, I look forward to each broadcast. Again, another refuge on the much maligned and abused television medium.

Even the byuTV station identification is nice: "Helping You to See the Good in the World." How uplifting is that?

Among my choices of reading material (much of which I've already shared with readers), I continue to be comforted and inspired by Spirituality & Health Magazine. The new issue (January/February) has a piece, "What Went Wrong with Wheat." Many of my friends have been discussing the gluten-free trend, and so the article was of interest. Grains have been consumed for much of human history, but the article states that we may have engineered this staple out of safe consumption. I'm sure there are those who say the jury's still out on this issue. Excuse me, but in my humble opinion, engineering is something better done when building bridges, not growing our daily bread. It's so risky on so many levels. We often talk about "playing God," and this is an example it can come back to harm us. Perhaps we humans are not ready to assume such responsibility, unless we can then deal with the consequences. This magazine continues to give me (pardon the pun) food for thought. It has something for everyone, regardless of one's religious/spiritual inclination.

Back to a smile, I look forward to the new year. Even though "New Year's" is an artificial construct, it's become a way we've come to pause, celebrate, reflect, resolve, and move forward. However you mark it--whether or not dimes are at stake--do it with joy and hope.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some More "Show & Tell" Before 2011 Ends,0,7734030.story#.TvymKu2pZrI.blogger">Bottle+Tree+Ranch+is+a+folk+art+%26%23039%3Bforest%26%23039%3B+in+the+Mojave+Desert

While doing my long-promised pre-New Year's cleaning, I found this article, clipped from the L.A. Times on December 4, about Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch in the Mojave Desert. I'm finally sharing it here as more evidence of my love for all things quirky, be they people, destinations, or projects. Does anyone out there remember the famous lone phone booth that was in the desert before "the company" yanked it out? It was even on a "60 Minutes" segment, and people from literally all over the world came to talk on "the phone." I sincerely hope Mr. Long's glass creation is in existence for a long time. I'd like to see Huell Howser do a show on it.

On a more serious note, I also found another L.A. Times article, from November 20, which is another example of generativity (see the prior post on this) and also redemption. The man featured in the article, John Paul Madrona, was only born in 1975, but I'm convinced that the attribute of generativity doesn't have to be limited to seniors. Working in hospice service, especially among the prison population, surely must serve to remind one of the chances we all have, each day of our lives, regardless of the circumstances, to make a difference for ourselves and others.,0,6904576.htmlstory

Now for an example of "reverse generativity," I've been encouraged to see evidence of course offerings in "Healthy Aging" (remember how not too many years ago, the concepts of healthy and aging were regarded as contradictory?). UCLA has a Geronet website (, and I read on December 11 in the L.A. Times that the College of the Canyons is offering a Certificate in Skills for Healthy Aging Resources and Programs. This is wonderful -- preparing people to be actually educated in the theory of the developmental stage of the elderly, and practice of how to serve them. If caregivers know what to expect when faced with a senior, they will not feel the fear or hesitation that so often comes in "not knowing what to do." Seniors' care will be greatly enhanced. Suspected cases of elder abuse and neglect (the ones stemming from, as I said, the caregivers' not having adequate skills and being overwhelmed) hopefully be reduced, and the "younger folks" will also have their own aging processes demystified.

I've told readers previously about my fondness for More magazine. The current issue (December/January) features a profile on Denise Thomas, owner and founder of Home Instead. This company's mission is to assist seniors to remain comfortably, safely, and with dignity, in their own homes as they live out their remaining years. I worked for Huntington Hospital's Senior Care Network from 2001 to early 2006, and not once did I encounter a senior who positively begged to be shipped off to a skilled nursing facility (SNF, for those in the field). Don't get me wrong; there are many fine skilled and assisted living establishments around. It's just that I found that an older adult--surrounded by the safe familiarity of their furniture, photos, and curios holding so many memories--can dodge the depression that can settle in and then masquerade as "dementia."

Queen Latifah's sassy smile graces the cover of this issue, which also has terrific advice for us ladies that we can actually use -- about retirement options, money, health, and how dress so we look like the gorgeous women we are--forces to be reckoned with and taken seriously.

It's been my pleasure to find items, and pass them along to you, dear readers. I'm not sure about the idea of reincarnation; but, if it's true, perhaps I'll come back as a librarian next time around!

Happy New Year! I have high hopes for 2012--really.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Us Old Folks Need to Still Be Around,0,6676350.column">Retired Los Angeles judge launches literacy project

The above is a link to a wonderfully inspiring piece I read in last Sunday's L.A. Times about retired Judge James Reese. Appropos to the holiday season of giving, I invite you to take a few minutes to read this article by Sandy Banks.

Anyone who has ever sat through a "Psych-101" type of class may have a passing knowledge of the life-stages theory of Erik Erikson. As I read about Judge Reese's recent $100,000 gift to USC--to kick-start a local literacy program--I immediately thought of Stage 7, Generativity versus Stagnation.

From his seat on the bench in Compton, Judge Reese saw human costs of poor education. When he sentenced young men to what we now call "community service," the recidivism rate was often driven by the offenders' inability to read instructions, and hence hold the jobs that kept them out of jail. Later, the judge's learned through online research that illiteracy rates, in some areas, were used as an index of future needed number of jail cells. So, here's evidence of the ripple effect of illiteracy -- personal, societal, legal, judicial. So much easier to educate a youth and make him/her a productive citizen, rather than clean up after his/her despair later on, you think?

Generativity is simply a fancy word for the ability and willingness of the older generation to care for, and contribute to the growth and future success, of the succeeding generation. Judge Reese, at age 92, has done more than just have concern for young men's education. He has put that feeling into action by providing means to facilitate their ability to read. His mother before him had modeled the importance of basic skills in becoming independent members of society.

Bob Seeger is another one who continues to provide inspiration for boomers and younger pop artists. I read about him in today's L.A. Times Calendar section. He's 70 now, and says that he could be retire at any time. Still, in the meantime, he's got the likes of Garth Brooks paying tribute. Seeger's craft has spanned several generations. I, myself, can hear something on the radio that Seeger recorded, and go back to that time in my life. He's a generational touchstone. Who can't remember where they where when they first heard "Night Moves?" How sweet is that?

So, whether it's a retired judge, or an old rock-and-roller, giving money for education or performing for artistic enrichment, we "geezers" are really needed by the succeeding generations, whether they admit it or not. And as we move through the holidays into the New Year, we have more gifts to give to the world. It's our job to make sure we're useful until we're gone, and that our influences will be felt even after. That, everyone, is what generativity is all about.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Des'ree - You Gotta Be |Lyrics|

I have decided to defer the third installment of my bullying posts. Instead, in the contemplative spirit of the holidays, I have decided to offer this as one of my favorite motivational songs. Enjoy...and keep a lookout for my thoughts on preparing for the new year!
Happy Holidays!
Dr. Valarie Cascadden

Some Stuff I Resolved in 2011

1. Life is too short to be irritated. That's why I carefully plan my trips to the store, and to recreational venues. I've never been terribly patient by nature. So, when faced with long lines, or a shortage of parking, I now ask myself, "Is it really worth it?" Another reason I'm forsaking Costco for Smart and Final.

2. Taste is everything, especially when one is making the most of a caloric count. As pricy as it is, almond butter beats the hell out of plain old peanut butter. A little spread on multi-grain toast is a great quick breakfast.

3. The only pink in my life, from now on, will be the occasional Pepto-Bismol. The color RED will take a more prominent place in my wardrobe.

4. Out with any flouncy, fluffy, or "aging hippie" stuff hiding in the recesses of my closet. When I think of "professors" and "scholars," what comes to mind are the graying, avuncular men with their pipes and tweed jackets with elbow patches. To craft the feminine counterpart to this look, I'm thinking I'd like to find houndstooth jackets, soft charcoal-gray knit dresses, and sleek A-line skirts. And comfortable shoes one can actually walk in, like Hush Puppies. Damn the sadist who declared stiletto heels beautiful!

5. I want to be able to grow my various career ventures, and be a good, loving caregiver for my mother, who'll be 87 soon.

6. The New Yorker Magazine is well worth the time spent reading it.

7. After years of not paying attention to the often-used phrase, "friends and family," it's beginning to make sense as to why the two are linked.

8. Hard work can keep one young. So can thoughtful fun. And for that matter, moments of spontaneous silliness.

9. With the passing this year of those like Andy Rooney, James Hillman, and Elizabeth Taylor, my generation has its work cut out to find comparable legends for its legacy. Any nominations?

10. We are fast becoming the older generation. We made a lot of noise and headlines in our youth; let's go out in the same spectacular way. If, as I read the other day, "80 is the new 65," what are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Second in a Series: Workplace Bullying Involving Older Workers

NOTE: none of the following is to be taken as legal or human resource advice. Please, if needed, seek your own legal counsel.

Bullying--the word seems so out of place in the world of the professional, "mature" worker. It conjures up the images of the poor, hapless kid getting ganged up on in the halls or on the playground. That's one of the reasons why grown-ups are usually so reluctant to identify themselves as being bullied.

In the previous post, I mentioned someone who recently told me about her "Sunday dread," and also some of the common physical symptoms of stress related to me.

Workplace bullying can be isolating. Because of the embarrassment associated with being picked on, many people are reluctant to say anything--to anyone. There has been a movement in recent decades to encourage "assertive communication." This is all well and good, but there are certain persons (for cultural reasons or hard-wired family messages) for whom assertion would be a difficult reach. Even in 2011, we still have a significant number of females who are raised to "be nice," even at their own expense. Sometimes, even loyal friends can tire of lending a supportive ear to the bullied individual, and may begin to subtly avoid the topic--or the individual. If this person wants to spare his or her family any of the ordeal, he or she may just shut down. Depression, alcohol/substance abuse, other addictive behaviors, or explosive anger at seemingly unrelated people might provide very dysfunctional releases.

Shame is often associated with the trauma of any ongoing abuse. Aside from feeling ridiculous about saying he or she has been picked on, a worker may somehow feel that if he or she were "stronger," or "a better worker," the bullying would not happen or continue for so long. This creates a situation of emotional power for the abuser, who can change the "rules" of the "game" at anytime, so the worker never feels validated or safe. This can further feed the abuse, because the perpetrator might say, "Well, if you felt it was so bad, why didn't you say something?" The worker's feelings of credibility, along with his or her courage, erodes, because the abuser counts on nothing ever being said.

With the current job market, a worker may experience the desperation of feeling trapped with a hostile boss or coworker. These feelings become heightened in those who are older, or planning for a semi-comfortable retirement. It's not unheard of, even now, for a worker to simply surrender and quit out of despair. Scarier still is the thought that someone's hopelessness might turn to rage, and he or she might suddenly return to the workplace as one of those dangerous "disgruntled workers" one hears about in the media.

As the existence of workplace bullying gains credence, there are measures any worker can take to protect himself or herself:

1. Keep every piece of work-related documents from the time of hire, no matter how insignificant or irrelevant it may seem. Make sure the file is kept where it cannot be found by anyone else, and contents would somehow mysteriously "vanish." This paper trail can include one's hiring agreement, formal job description, performance evaluations, letters of praise from customers, copies of emails, etc.

2. Be comfortably cordial, but thoughtful about self-disclosure. One never knows how an innocent conversation about one's personal life can provide fodder for gossip or more malicious purposes. Don't ever feel pressured to offer up any more information than what feels safe, even at the risk of appearing aloof. ALSO, think carefully about what personal belongings are left in the side desk drawer, especially if there is no lock to the desk.

3. And NOWADAYS...make sure that your Facebook "friends" setting reflects who your friends really are. Be mindful of what you post, no matter how innocent it may seem. Someone who has less than honorable motives can mine the social media network for things to use as leverage.

3. Carefully observe the workplace culture. Who is "friends" with whom, and who are the obvious outsiders or scapegoats? What is the tone of the gossip? What is the overall style of management-worker relationships? Do shifts in allegiances or divisions occur, and under what circumstances? Are you ever asked to take sides--by whom and against whom?

If you find yourself being targeted:

1. Keep aware and listen to your intuition. Bullying can be as grossly obvious as being tailgated by a Mac truck, or it can be subtle and insidious.

2. Take care of yourself -- now is all the more reason to cultivate interests and friendships outside of work, to exercise, find a hobby or cause...all to keep your senses of self-esteem and mastery buoyed up. Counseling, such as EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services, can help validate and normalize your feelings during these times.

3. Keep your cool, and think long and hard before returning the enemy fire. In the meantime, document, document, document any and all inappropriate words and actions. Then, if you feel you'll get supported, go to your H.R., union representative, or management, but also be aware of the limitations and possible pitfalls of this are. Do research on your rights in the workplace, and get expert legal advice if you need it.

4. Take your time deciding if you can "stick it out," change jobs, or strike out into a venture like your own business. These are very serious crossroads to face, and ultimately, only you can decide what is right for you to do.

Next post: A personal account of bullying.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Workplace Bullying Involving Older Workers: The first in a series

NOTE: none of the following is to be taken as legal or human resource advice. Please, if needed, seek your own legal counsel.

As we boomers remain on the job--whether by choice or necessity--we can be at risk for unprofessional, unsafe behavior from our peers and supervisors.

In the past year, I have had a significant number of clients disclose that they have been targeted with workplace hostility. They report sleep disturbances, including bad dreams about work; abdominal pains, even when they see their workplace building on a day off; second-guessing their abilities, even when they were highly trained. These people can't "just forget about it and relax" on weekends, and one individual said she gets "Sunday dread," because she knows Monday is just 24 hours away.

Workplace bullying, sadly, is not strictly illegal by itself, per my internet research. It can include a sneaky undercurrent of looks, covert gestures, exclusion from group communication, instances of realizing that one's desk and work files are being rifled through, and one's efforts to serve the public are contradicted in front of the customer. Because so much is done out of the sight or hearing of management, or behind closed doors, the bullying goes largely unnoticed. There have also, in recent decades, some efforts made in corporations to conduct "sensitivity training" or "communication sessions" to help the rank-and-file workers "get along." With supervisors or Human Resource reps in the room, the participants are likely to sit, nod mechanically, (maybe) smile at each other across the table--and then it's back to status-quo in the departments.

Older workers and those who feel socially and economically marginalized are particularly vulnerable. If the bully is confronted, often he/she will deny it, say something along the lines of "Too f***ing bad, if you don't like it, just quit." And so, too often, our worker sucks up their feelings--because, as some of my clients say, "At my age, who will hire me? And I need this job!" They feel trapped, like anyone in an abusive situation. Furthermore, the longer and more pervasive the abuse, the worker's productivity and accuracy can suffer, providing more ammunition for the bully.

Sometimes, a worker will go to H.R. or their supervisors, and the first thing he or she will hear is, "Well, didn't you try to work it out with them? You know, we're in the middle of end-of-month documentation. Can't this wait?" So, a glimmer of hope of support goes out...especially when the bully finds out that the worker has tried to seek help. The abuser may feign innocence to the rest of the department, and then the worker experiences retribution.

In a day when we are trying to pull together as a nation, and revitalize the economy, the childish viciousness of workplace bullying is detrimental not only to the individual worker, but productivity of companies and the country. Let's work this out!

Next post: The personal costs of workplace bullying, and some survival strategies.

Resources:, U.S. Department of Labor, "The Bully at Work," by Gary Namie, PhD & Ruth Namie, PhD

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Laughing at the passage of time

I can't stop it, or even slow it down. So, I may as well join the chorus of people who poke fun at their own aging process.

Today, at 7:59 AM, I'll officially turn 57. And by my own screwy, defiant reckoning, I'm still lingering in middle age, since I hold fast to the cherished goal of long surpassing the century mark. I'm just now getting started on yet another life stage.

I hit my peak physically at about 22, when I consistently weighed 100 lbs., even after a multi-course holiday meal, and "dieting" meant skipping dessert for a day or two to squeeze back into my slim skirts. Looking back, though, I was a "lightweight" emotionally and intellectually. I was still easily swayed by trends and others' opinions, and filled with anxiety regarding "where I should be in my life." I'd completed a patchwork of college courses, but the seesaw of indecision had been an obstacle to my degree. There was that broken engagement, and a pesky, whining ex-boy/fiance who kept calling, wanting to be friends! (To this day, I've never quite gotten that B.S. concept, except that it's a way of avoiding being brave and moving on to take responsibility for getting one's needs met.) And there was my "Silverlake life," when I resided in a hidden back-house apartment in that funky little L.A. enclave that still holds a tiny bit of the old 1970's charm. The insurance industry was centered on Wilshire Boulevard at that time, and I earned my living as an insurance support staffer--skipping merrily from job to job as my fancy struck.

In retrospect, all this dancing around was productive. I was, at my own pace, observing life and trying it on for size. Some of my adventures were totally benign, some outrageous (material for future posts--maybe!). My family and friends were often bewildered at my impulsiveness, but things were brewing in my subconscious.

At 26, I met my now-late husband. When I was 28, we had our son. At 33, I was widowed. Talk about life taking a hard turn...

I returned to my childhood home, and my mother and I set about raising my son, and developing a mutually-beneficial family arrangement. I've written about this life in prior posts. Men I dated proved skittish about taking on a "woman with a kid," so I became primarily involved with finishing school and working. The Bachelor's finally was completed when I was 40; the Master's, 42, and the doctorate, 52. My work is my therapeutic practice, adjunct professorship, my writing, and caring for Mom. Even today, I thought of a couple of more creative projects to begin soon.

And someone dear holds my affection.

As many of my high school and college friends are winding down their careers, I do lovingly wish them well. I made up my mind in my 20's, however, that I was just going to purposefully keep going. There has been so much heart and mind invested in my callings, I wouldn't give them up even if I struck it rich tomorrow. My post-40 discoveries about the world and myself keep unfolding, making up an ever-increasingly complex tapestry of psyche, an unbroken cycle of sharing and receiving...

So, this birthday greeting is from me to the world, with gratitude. Perhaps I'll treat myself to breakfast before church, waving my AARP card and coyly dropping the fact that it's my birthday. Or if I wait till 4 PM, I could get the 20% senior discount at Denny's...and coyly dropping the fact that it's my birthday...oh, I could have SO MUCH fun.

Where's Betty White when I need her? Her company would be a hoot, especially today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"For now we see through a glass, darkly," of our future, or not?

I've mentioned in various contexts that I'm Mom's primary caretaker, and that I've assumed this role willingly and lovingly...

Even in moments when my assistance stirs up an array of unexpected, and even scary, thoughts and feelings.

I kept up the denial for many years, knowing rationally that Mom "might someday need my help." Grownups are not really different from children in this regard. We keep the image of Mom or Dad as a 45-year-old in the forefront of our consciousness, clinging to it as a fantasy even as various capabilities fall away. With some seniors, the decline is rapid; others experience gradual aging as that proverbial "thief in the night."

My mom has been bravely holding out against frailty. What seems (wistfully, to me, at least) a scant twenty years ago, Mom was newly-retired from nursing, enthusiastically doing volunteer work, making gift batches of homemade fudge for everyone from my son's teachers to the trash collectors, baking holiday pies from scratch, and driving her little putt-putt 1966 VW Bug all over town.

Today, Mom confines her life mostly to her bedroom, and her jailer is her fear of falling. A fall which, by the way, has not yet happened.

She reluctantly gets out into the living room for meals, TV, and conversation with me at my insistence. Cautiously wheeling her walker, Mom pauses halfway down the hall, saying, "Oh, I can't do this. This is a mistake." And I'll--taking a breath and holding back any impatience--"Yes, Mom, you can. I'm here. I'll never let anything happen to you." And then it hits me--for the zillionth time--that we've come full circle, and I'm now the protector, as she was for me at the beginning of my life.

I'm not alone, though. My son, all 6'5" of him, puts aside his usual smart-alerk self when he's over here, and actually quells Mom's fears, if only briefly. Getting Mom out of the house and over to Thanksgiving dinner at a relative's home took our combined efforts, but it made my holiday complete to have her there. Eric and his father-in-law picked Mom up, wheelchair and all, transferring her safely and easily from the walkway onto the porch.

Christmas, another important family-gathering time, is something I need to start strategizing now.

Mom's impacted mobility has reminded me how tightly our senses of self are bound up in not just who we think we are, but what we think we can do. Take that away from any one, especially seniors, and the decline can begin. Not a day goes by that Mom doesn't say something like, "I don't know what I'd do without you," or "I never thought you'd be taking care of me." The fact that Mom still has most of her cognitive faculties makes her gratitude all the more bittersweet.

Recently, I posted a link on my Facebook page to the TED talk of Aubrey deGrey, about "Defeating Aging." I viewed it again the other day, and have decided I dislike his proclamation that "Aging is ghastly." Right now, with our current knowledge and technology, aging is inevitable but not horrible. I prefer those who go beyond deGrey's disgust, and focus on the practical "hows" of enhancing quality of life while it exists. Thank goodness we live in an era of AARP, and a plethora or others organizations.

Knowing that our elders have a limited time with us can be scary, and that's why I think the image of "old people" can be depressing or revolting to us boomers. These reactions are merely masks for fear that this can be our future, fear that can diminish our ability to treasure our relationships with our elders in the here-and-now. And it's good to remember that our own children are watching, taking cues as to how to react when our own time winds down. It's easy for my generation, in times of angst, to recall that Who song, "My Generation," and the line, "I hope I die before I get old...". Not me! I like to think, as I sometimes look "through the glass darkly," that total dependence is only ONE scenario that could play out for me. Much of my future, with the help of knowledge and lifestyle, might still be within my control.

And so, we solider on, down this road, Mom and I. With the help of family, friends, and resources through her Medicare and supplement, life is mostly in this good-enough state. I intend to do whatever I can to keep it that way.
That quote from I Corinthians 13, from which I borrowed for this post's title, also speaks of (depending upon the version) love and charity, among other attributes, which are great coping skills for a caregiver's task.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Girl Who Silenced The World For 5 Minutes

While doing my usual morning Facebook check-in, I came upon this, posted by a high school friend. I was transfixed.

Before I saw it, I had thought of doing a post with some light, flippant humor, but this young girl's words have taken center stage.

Her message is all the more reason our generation needs to stick around and continue to mobilize. When I have heard the despair of a youngster, it breaks my heart. So what ARE we going to do for our grandchildren? Even as we worry that the future generations won't have a standard of living comparable to ours, what good is it if they won't have a habitable planet? It's given me something to ponder today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nostalgia of hearth & home -- when homemakers were honored

The urge to blog these thoughts came unexpectedly, while I was rummaging around in the desk for a big envelope for Mom's use. Then, I came upon come long-forgotten treasures, reminiscent of female relatives long passed away, and of an era of our country when housewives didn't sheepishly say, "I don't work, I'm just a housewife," or use the current parlance, "stay-at-home-mom." Those of my mother's generation who were lucky enough to go to college, did so to become nurses, teachers...or to major in Home Economics, hopefully to marry and run a home and family.

Despite my own inclinations, I have an admiration for these ladies. They were truly managers of the homes we older folks grew up, felt safe and secure, and dreamed our dreams of the future...

There's the image above to start, but then I've created an online Facebook album of all the images, because I didn't feel right about omitting any of them. They are all fascinating.

I'll 'fess up to being -- still -- a decidedly un-domestic female! Growing up, I did Saturday chores while gritting my teeth, resented having to take cooking and sewing classes in junior high simply because I was a girl (I wanted to take drafting, instead), and was fortunate to find boyfriends and a husband who actually liked to do the cooking! How lucky was that? Do I perhaps give off a "cuisine-challenged" vibe?

I use the microwave as much as possible, and can't remember when I used my iron. On a rare occasion, I'll say to my family, "I think I'll bake/cook...", and their looks of consternation, bordering on panic, immediately register. When I start rattling around in the kitchen cupboards, everyone stays away. Sometimes, I think they're afraid I'll blow things up in there!

Many of you know that I'm a sucker for the historic, the vintage, the nostalgic. Also, in these "challenging times," (really, when has that not been the case?) there is a collective nesting instinct manifesting itself, a yearning for anything of the "home" archetype. And hard-core Sixties-child that I am, I'm right there, too!

Also, here's a few of Grandma's cosmetics, which I found in a zip-lock bag, where I found the cookbook. One of the silver tubes actually has lipstick that has survived almost a century.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday vs. The 3/50 Project -- holiday shopping reconsidered!

Yes, the day after Thanksgiving, I'm going to work for a while. The call for my services doesn't stop for holidays.

It's only 5:23 AM, though, and I'm already plotting a mental route to circumvent the cattle-herd already at the malls and on major streets. I go online and am assaulted with ads in bold colors, ALL CAPS TYPE FACES, and repetitive, urgent messages about Black Friday, and save, save, save... My email inbox doesn't look any better. Ugh...

And there's already news about a pepper-spraying melee at a Walmart in Porter Ranch? What's the matter with everyone?

I wonder if all this media/sensory overload might not generate a backlash, if it hasn't already. I'm surprised there hasn't been some kind of "Occupy Black Friday" arising. But our economy needs bolstering, and this is a short-term fix. The stores "need" our business RIGHT NOW, and we "need" those marked-down gifts RIGHT NOW. It's a symbiotic relationship of the most greedy, desperate kind.

Okay, a good deal on that TV or iPad2 aside, may I also offer an alternative? Check out this site: www. Go ahead...right now, BEFORE you gird on your armor and go forth into the consumerism warfare.

Me, I've been DONE with my shopping for months. As crazy as my schedule can get, I find that using some organization and mindfulness can result in more thoughtful gift-giving that's relaxed and truly from the heart. It's been my practice to be on the lookout for that special thing that I know a certain someone will truly appreciate; even if I see it in March or April, I'll get it and put it aside.

Here in Southern California, there's all kinds of charming little stores offering unique merchandise. For those who are near Montrose, there's a quiet little street of wonderful independent shops. Another area is Magnolia Park, more commonly known as West Magnolia Blvd., stretching down from Burbank into Sherman Oaks. Pomona has its antique and thrift store shopping district, which is where I spent a relaxing day this summer with an old friend...and got many of my Christmas gifts. I'm certain, all across the U.S.A., many of you can identify pockets of businesses that are slow, leisurely, and actually friendly...owned by families or older people who run their businesses with heart. Go, please, and explore them...for their businesses, and for yourself.

Every year, as a culture, we pay fleeting lip-service to the notion that "maybe we should not get so wrapped up in craziness." Maybe, right now, is the time to start...with patronizing the small businesses. We might just even enjoy the holidays.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shakespeare & Charlie Rose

A must-see Charlie Rose segment, November 10, 2011:

TV's increasing din...sitcoms, reality shows, dramas, and round-the-clock news and commentary...enlightenment, entertainment, or escape? How might distant history evaluate our era, using this medium as a measure? What might the Bard have to say about our viewing choices and habits?

Thank goodness for the vast array from which to choose when I press "Guide" on my remote. Busy person that I am, I have chosen just a few to record and watch when I finally land on my sofa: "Person of Interest," "American Horror Story" (a gruesome guilty pleasure), "So Cal Connected," "Holmes Inspection" (for my practical nature), and "Sister Wives."

And then, there's Charlie! Whatever did I do before I was turned on to his show, minimalist in set-up, but so rich in content? "Did my heart love till now?" Sorry, Will, for the pilfer.

I will do whatever I must to make time for this new "Why Shakespeare?" series, which began last Thursday. There was an impressive line-up of scholars and artists on the first segment, most prominently Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theatre (

As a break from the cacophony of 2011 media culture, it would do us good to look through the lens of this series. Not only will we be examining the unequaled genius of Shakespeare (of whose writings many in my field mine for quotes and insights), but we may come away with some fresh ideas about ourselves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Hi, this is Dr. Valarie Cascadden again, writing about our thoughts.

Norman Vincent Peale became famous for his book “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Dale Carnegie wrote, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Leo Tolstoy stated, “Men suffer from thinking more than from anything else.” And in the Bible, it is written, “As a man thinketh, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). And, ladies, we’re not excluded from this, either. Throughout history, we’ve been reminded about the power of thoughts, negative and positive.

Almost everyday we say it, or hear someone else say it – “I can’t stop thinking about this…” or, “It’s been on my mind that such-and-such…”. Consider how many times you—as they say, get “lost in thought. We sometimes daydream on the way to work, and miss the street or freeway turnoff, even if we’ve been going that way for years. “Getting preoccupied” can be irritating when it interferes with our attention to a conversation, but it can also lead to fantastic creative breakthroughs (the “lightbulb” over our heads can actually have an energizing affect)– and we wonder why that something didn’t occur to us earlier. Our minds have incredible power, and we’ve often heard anecdotes that we only use about 10% of our brain capacity.

PET or CT scans can show how automatic our thoughts are when we hear or see something. A patient is shown a series of images, and the brain’s circuitry lights up like a Christmas tree. Each of those flashes is from a thought.

When someone disappoints us or says something stupid or hurtful, we have a thought. When we are scared or worried, we have a thought. When we’re insecure, jealous, lonely, whatever, we have a thought. It’s so automatic that we’re usually unaware of it, and it immediately triggers an emotion, oftentimes in the form of anger, fear, sadness, or worry.

People come into my office and want to know how they can get over something and move on. Usually they start with saying, “I can’t help the way I feel.” That’s when I educate them about how those nasty feelings first come from their thoughts, which are reactions to what’s happened to them.

We’re not born thinking any certain way. We usually learn how we think or respond by watching our parents or other adults, and over time we adopt thought patterns whether or not we’re aware of it. Then we usually act in a way that reflects the way we feel, even if the way we feel is based on faulty information. If we then act upon perceptions that are not necessarily correct, it may cause difficulty in our relationships with others.

Take, for example, a midlife or senior person who is convinced that he or she will never find love again after a divorce or death of a partner. There are a proliferation of “older” dating sites online, but our lonely-heart remains unconvinced. “I’m too old for love or sex.” A few dates don’t pan out, and the person retreats, giving real meaning to the old expression, “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Thoughts are habits, and as with all habits, they can be changed through re-learning. One of the best and most effective methods of therapy is what we call Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. It’s simple, practical, and interactive, and it works well with most age groups and issues. I've alluded to this in other posts, but I personally think that much of the economic and political malaise is fueled by fear that we can again never have "an American dream." As if there was ever any such one-size-fits-all thing in the first place!

When I do CBT, I first take a history and do an assessment. As the client and I identify thought patterns that contribute to the problem, we go to work to uncover evidence that challenges these problematic thoughts, and help the client develop clearer, more rational thinking. As these new thoughts strengthen through the client's practice, so often do calmer emotions.

For further information, or to schedule an appointment, please call me at 818-729-9190 or visit my website at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Personal List of Recommended Gift Books for the Holiday Season

Nothing beats a good read, especially when it's in the form of a gift. What makes the book even more special is that signed and dated message that a thoughtful giver will inscribe on the inside of the front cover.

I love to give, as well as receive, a book that's well-matched with the potential reader. Here are some of my personal picks. All of these have been on the bookstore shelves for quite awhile, but they've stood the test of time:

Disquiet Please! More Humor Writing from the New Yorker, edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder. Any reader of the magazine will adore the wide array of urbane wit from the likes of E.B. White, Steve Martin, and Peter De Vries.

On the Couch: A Book of Psychoanalysis Cartoons. Ninety-four single-frame lampoons of the psychiatric profession that have been featured in the New Yorker, to be appreciated by both those who have, or have not, undergone analysis.

Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, by Bob Phillips, PhD. Quotable wisdom from history's most-quoted people.

The Little Book of Mathematical Principals, Theories, & Things, by Robert Solomon. Sssshhh...I've giving a copy of this to a certain dear nerd in my life.

The Soloist. I met the author, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, and had him autograph my copy at a Barnes & Noble during a NAMI walk several years ago. A must-read of the extraordinary life of Nathaniel Ayers. Sadly, I felt the movie didn't do Mr. Lopez' narrative justice.

For inspiration about how to grow old(er) and really wiser, here are three: Gordon Livingston, M.D.'s And Never Stop Dancing: Thirty More Things You Need to Now, which is preceded by Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Also, Helen M. Luke's Old Age: Journey into Simplicity.

And, finally, for those who like to wade in the pool of Jungian thought, anything by Robert A. Johnson is both thought-provoking and very readable. My favorites: He: Understanding Masculine Psychology; She: Understanding Feminine Psychology; We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, and Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche. When I was flipping through the latter book, I found one of my underlined passages on Page 47 (I still mark up my books, so many years after college graduation!): "Parrots learn profanity more easily than common phrases since we utter our curses with so much vigor. The parrot doesn't know the meaning of these words, but he hears the energy invested in them."

So, that's it for this evening...we're still not yet at Thanksgiving, so there's time for me to pull more books off my shelves.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Brass Box, Google Satellite & Memories

I'm going to now do what little sisters have done since time began -- blame my big brother! He started it!

This emotional exercise began for me a couple of weeks ago when Kevin, 10 years my senior, sent my mom and I some print outs of some Google Satellite images of different locations. The house above is 2967 Elmwood Avenue, Kenmore, New York, where my family lived when I was born, until we moved here to California in 1963--November 22nd to be exact, the day JFK was assassinated. There were some more shots which I will share with the appropriate friends, and another of my mother's childhood home on Mulberry Street. Above it are two shots of my closest playmates on Hampton Parkway, around the corner from the Elmwood house. Some of these folks are now Facebook friends, and I hope we chat about any memories they want to share.

When I pored over the photos Kevin sent, I was surprised at how overcome with emotion I was, and still am. my spare time, I've been rummaging through what is known in my family as "The Brass Box." It's on small casters, with dimensions of only 12" x 15" x 19". But it's a veritable vault, a time capsule. If the house burned down, I'd be challenged to gather my mom, the cat, AND The Brass Box. To let anything happen to it is unthinkable.

While looking through time-worn envelopes, some printed with "LEE'S DRUGS. BUFFALO'S HEADQUARTERS FOR CAMERAS, FILM, FLASHBULBS AND PHOTO SUPPLIES," I thought of that scene in the movie Beaches, where Barbara Hershey's character was frantically looking for a picture of her mother's hands. Even though I don't quite feel that level of urgency, I can relate to the preciousness of family photos more as I get older. I also think of times I've been to the Rose Bowl swap meet, and have seen tables with boxes of family photos...orphaned images, with no names, dates, or people who still find them valuable. So very sad. I'm determined, while Mom's still living, to go through our photos with her, and try to catalog and date those pictures that are not thus labeled. If I can help it, our family history is not going to end up in swap meet boxes!

For more views of my family history, take a look at my Facebook album, "From the Brass Box."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sleepless in Burbank & More Good Reads

Before I offer up some more reading recommendations, I wanted to check to see how we're all doing with the early morning time change.

Until about 10 years ago, it never bothered me. I set my clock forward or back, depending on the time of year...and, done!

Somehow, though, with midlife, the hour differential really throws me for awhile. Last evening, after dinner and some down-time, I set three tabletop clocks back, and fell asleep earlier than deep, in fact, that I woke at 2 AM (standard time), and have been awake since then.

At first, I didn't move. The radio is always on at night, to KUSC, as a sort of classical music "nightlight" for my ears (I can't sleep in total silence!). I thought the soothing melodies wouldn't have a sedative effect, but that didn't happen. So, rather than lie gazing at the ceiling with mounting irritation, I got up and made the best of the situation. It's now 5:55 as I write this, and in almost three hours I have: watered the front lawn (I use manual rather than automatic controls), checked my email, chatted with a few equally-insomniac friends via Facebook, caught up on some work-related paperwork, washed a few dishes in the sink, fed Tiggy, cleaned the litterbox, downed most of a pot of coffee, and stocked up my briefcase for today's work.

Based on my past few years' experience, it will take a day or so to settle back down to my usual sleep pattern.

Moving on to my latest list of useful material for midlife, I noticed that this list appears to be female-centric. I'd like to point out, however, that to be a more conscious individual, it is wise to acknowledge and nurture the "opposite" of one's gender. A man can honor his anima (inner feminine aspect) without compromising his masculine self-concept. Likewise, a woman can be aware of her animus, (inner masculine aspect). These ideas are just a small component of Jungian theory, which is too complex to fully discuss here.

Earlier today, I posted a reference to some of David Whyte's work on my FB page. Equally, I recommend the audiobook by Marion Woodman, The Crown of Age: The Rewards of Conscious Aging. She discusses the archetype of the crone, to which I alluded in my previous post, and points out that the wisdom inherent in crone-hood is not solely for females; males can see themselves as possessing knowledge of the years. So much for dismissing our elders as "old fools!"

Amazon and other booksellers have a list of Woodman's many and varied works. Two that I pulled off my shelf are: Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body & Soul (coauthored with Jill Mellick), and The Owl Was a Baker's Daughter: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa and the Repressed Feminine. The latter book is very timely, given our individual and collective fixation on weight and body image.

Another by Jean Shinoda Bolen is Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage. Indeed, midlife--for men and women--can be seen as a crisis, which is paralyzing, or as a journey, which can be undertaken literally OR psychically, and be a step toward continued development.

Although it might not be to everyone's reading taste, I also suggest going to and look at the magazine Crone: Women Coming of Age. Issue #4 had an interesting perspective of financial crisis in "Thank you, Bernie Madoff: Catastrophe as Compost for New Beginnings."

Have a good Sunday, all, as we venture into November....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles

Long before I attended Pacifica Graduate Institute, I happened upon this wonderful, often-overlooked resource of thought, inspiration, and fellowship. Unfortunately, for due to some technical orneriness, my computer won't "let" me post the link, so I'm entering the address:

On busy Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, you can turn on Kerwood, and just make sure you park being mindful of the resident-only permit-parking signs. The courtyard is tiny, but with overhanging trees and a soothing small fountain. Their library/bookstore is a treasure-trove for people who enjoy looking at the psyche from the perspective of the individual or collective soul. Of course, you can find all things Jungian, but also the works of Joseph Campbell, Marie-Louse von Franz, Marion Woodman, and the recently-departed James Hillman. There are also trinkets and jewelry pieces, if you're looking for one-of-a-kind gifts for birthdays and holidays.

I often attend public programs there, for either clinical continuing education hours, or I take my gentleman friend with me when there's a presentation of a less esoteric nature. When I was culling through some papers last night, I rediscovered my brochure for the Fall 2011 Public Programs (also available on the Institute website). The topic for December 9 caught my eye, "A Conversation on Aging and Death." I think I'll go. After all, these are processes that concern all of us--unless there's someone out there who has concocted a magic elixir of eternal youth. As much as I'm determined to bulldoze my way through past 100, the idea that there will someday be an end for me is both comforting and motivating. It reminds me to live now, and live fully. I wonder how much that sentiment will be addressed at this December 9th lecture.

More Recommended Reading -- Lighter Material

I love working at my computer at this time. The sun is not yet up in the east, Handel's "Water Music" is wafting through the house (my version of a "sound system" is each room having a radio playing), and the coffee has finished brewing. A "Vanilla Cookie"-scented candle is on the dining room table, providing a soothing aroma and some light source. I grudgingly turn on a 60-year-old pin-up lamp so I can see my keyboard -- the only artificial light I permit in the morning.
In my office, a lavender and lilac candle burns to help my process. Tiggy, my feline sidekick, occasionally strolls over to commandeer my lap for as long as it suits her.

When a person is as busy as most of us are, the choice of leisure reading material should be a considered one. Here are my personal picks of magazines:

Ode: For Intelligent Optimists, and its online companion, Odewire: News for Intelligent Optimists. On the current issue's cover, "Viva la revolution! How the "Energy Internet" will Transform Political Power by Democratizing Green Power." Also, there are references to pieces about healthy living, and how families and groups have become important supports.

More: For Women of Style and Substance. I'm not usually a reader of "women's magazines," but this periodical has some practical, intelligently written pieces for us older gals, with topics including money management, regaining some of our physical energy, and reinventing ourselves professionally.

When I'm really needing some mental playfulness, I pore over my Mental Floss, the cover of which always assures us that this is "where knowledge junkies get their fix," and encourages us to "feel smart again." I also like to give this to my 86-year-old mom to read for her continued cognitive stimulation. Up this month: "25 Most Powerful Songs of the Past 25 Years. Tunes that Toppled Dictators, Won Gold Medals, Made Sewage Disappear."

Truthfully, I haven't yet gotten around to this issue, but that title alone beckons me...

Then there's Scientific American Mind: Behavior, Brain Science, Insights. The cover eye-grabber: "Great Idea! You Must be Dreaming: Creatively Solve Problems in Your Sleep."

I would invite my blog/FB page readers to let me know if you, too, have noticed at these magazines, and what you think of them. If not, take a look--at your newsstand or online.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recommended "Boomer Reading" for the Season

First, a brief announcement: I'm down another 2 lbs. I'm pleased.

Now to the topic, fall reading. Much is said about "summer reading lists," but I would also propose that the cooling of the weather, shortening of the daytime hours (be sure to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night, November 5th!), and the end-of-the-year contemplation in which many of us engage may cause us to consider a good book or two.

Here are some of my favorites:

Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life. In this anthology, I would like to call particular attention to the essays of my former Burbank High School classmate, Hillary Horan: "The Swollen Penis," "Miss Rose Kathleen," and "The Trust Thing." This is edited by Maureen Murdock, formerly of Pacifica Graduate Institute (where I did my own doctoral studies), and also now at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up, by James Hollis, PhD, a Jungian analyst from Houston, Texas, one of my favorite authors, and one hell of a terrific speaker! I went to a seminar he held last year in West Los Angeles, and was honored to get his inscription on my copy of the book, and have a few precious moments of face-time. Should I admit here and now that I was just a tad star-struck? Okay, I will!

Dr. Hollis has also written Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves. Very thought-provoking, and oddly comforting in its way to help us 'fess up to our "failings."

A third from Dr. Hollis is a slightly more academic, but still quite clear is The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife.

Gail Sheehy, author of Passages, offers up a candid look at one of our generation's pressing issues in Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence. I'd like to see this book more actively promoted in caregivers' support groups held across the country.

From Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., another Jungian analyst: Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women Over Fifty. Lest any male reader of mine feel slighted, may I mention that Dr. Bolen also has written Gods in Everyman. All of Dr. Bolen's works are practical, readable, and encouraging. She skillfully draws upon a large pool of ancient myth and legend to show the ways we can conceive of ourselves--and become--the formidable selves we were meant to be.

A final one for this post: Dorothy Morrison's In Praise of the Crone: A Celebration of Feminine Maturity. Another practical guide to feeling better at "this age." Crones ARE NOT ugly old hags, as portrayed in cartoons. Rather, they are wise women; I like to think of them as being the counterparts of the Merlin figure in the Arthurian legend.

Okay, that's more than enough for this post. There is more, especially on the subject of crone-hood, which I will share in the near future.

Best regards as we approach All Hallows Eve.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Nostalgia Monster has Struck Again!

Quick, someone stop me!!

It started when I heard Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Our House" on the radio the other day.

I've gotten this urge to add another writing project to my to-do list...about the houses we grew up in, and our memories of them.
I used to sit and pore over the cookbook above as a kid, while sitting on the high kitchen stool, watching Mom do her Whirling Dervish routine. Whenever I see the cookbooks in the drawer (I've posted a few of their images on FB), I can smell the flour, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs, etc., as Mom became a blur....whizzing, responding to the demands of oven, pressure cooker, timer, all with seemingly effortless expertise.

In 1972, I graduated from Burbank High School, Given my age, personal dreams, and the tone of the times, I couldn't run away from this house and Burbank fast enough.

Now I've come full circle. Following the death of my husband, I moved back to the family home (the story of which will be in the above-mentioned writing), to keep Mom company (she, too, was alone), and give Eric a stable, safe place in which to grow up. I've never regretted this decision.

And I've decided it's okay, and maybe a little cool to have fond memories of the stuff that makes up my visual history. Even Eric--rock-star-lookalike as a teenager--has become protective of these household items.

No, I probably won't use the cookbooks much, if at all. But they're definitely staying in the family.

For more, check out my FB Page, "From My Turbo-Charged Rocking Chair."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

First follow-up, and my new exercise equipment!

First, the news. I'm down one pound from last week. YES, I'm totally okay with this. Every reputable weight-loss program, including Weight Watchers, promotes slow but steady weight loss. Dramatic drops are not only unhealthy, but they are usually not maintained over time, especially for "women my age." So, again, one pound DOWN, which means I'm going in the right direction.

When my son and daughter-in-law made their recent move, they had to leave behind this John Deere lawnmower and an edger. I eagerly took possession of both, and have assumed the role of gardener. Someone else had been performing that function, but it's time to save some money, use the muscles the good Lord gave me, and expend even more calories. My mother, who will be protective of me till the very end, is not happy about this, saying that "there's more to this than you think."

What? Am I not capable of doing myself what we've been paying good money to have done for us? Oh, Mom, "of little faith...". And anyway, I've always found gardening--working up a sweat and becoming marvelously dirty--to be the best therapy for me on my day off. Also, I love the smell of freshly-cut grass--aromatherapy for free. I CAN do the reseeding, fertilizing, cutting and edging, along with the weeding and pruning of the roses bushes I've always done. Ever since I re-landscaped the backyard in 2004, inspired by Bob Villa's "Gardening by the Yard" and also HGTV, my yard is MY DOMAIN. Time to reclaim it! I can be extreme in my efforts; I'd LOVE to wear a teeshirt that proclaims, in block stencil-letters, something like "I don't use gardening gloves!"

So, next Wednesday, I'll kindly thank the gardener for his services, send him on his way, and take over from there.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Maintenance Due for a High-Mileage Chassis

Sooner or later, it happens to each of us...the day of reckoning with our physicality.

I grew up in a household in which servings of food were oversized, given the influence of my paternal grandmother. Food was dished out by my mother at the end of the table, and we were expected to clean our plates of whatever was placed on them. There was always dessert, and it, too, was "required consumption." To refuse any food was considered a form of disrespect.

I was a decidedly non-athletic kid, and the last one anyone wanted on their team in P.E. So, the only exercise I got was walking to and from school, except when on one of grownups prevailed upon me to let them drive me. I hated the way I looked, but my excess weight was laughingly dismissed by my family as "just baby fat," even into my late teens.

When I finally escaped via a freshman year of college away from home, I quickly made a cadre of new friends and become active. Food was no longer the center of my universe, and I only ate what I truly wanted. The days of moping in my room were behind me, and without my focusing on what was happening, thirty pounds dropped off. Mom and Dad came for Student-Parent Day, about six weeks into the term. Casually bounding up to greet them, I was puzzled by their shocked expressions. Was I sick? Was I unhappy? Did I want to come home? To which I emphatically answered, No, no, and most definitely NO! I loved having the age-appropriate energy--and body--of a seventeen-year-old. It took my family a long time to adjust to Valarie sans "baby fat."

As the years rolled by, I maintained my weight (for the most part) a 100 -105 lb. range. Even after ballooning up to 154 just prior to delivering my son, I promptly got back to my prenatal proportions, only half-joking that, with a new child, I couldn't have afforded to buy a new wardrobe in a new size.

And so the scale stayed at that spot until I hit 40. Then my activity level dropped. My son and I had enjoyed weekends hiking in the local hills and at nature centers, but now he was a teenager who preferred hitting the arcades with his friends. I was working a full-time job, going to school at night, doing an unpaid internship--and resorting to fast food rather than planning to-go meals for my long days away from home. I saw the needle on the scale dial going up....WHEN I was weighed in at doctor's appointments. I would have rather not thought about the number, because I still "felt okay," and could jam myself into my skirts.

Lately, it's been a struggle, and I'm embarrassed to say I've been in a position of lazy surrender. So, after my most recent MD visit, I've gotten on Weight Watchers Online, and (drum roll here), I've begun to drop this ballast! I'm blogging this to go public with my effort, to be accountable. I want to report in to you each Sunday, my friends and readers, as I become svelte again. Here are some of my commitments:

1. To continue to follow the WW Online program to the letter. So many of my friends have had success with it, so I'm without excuse.

2. To avoid drive-throughs -- both food and ATM's. Anything I want to do, or eat, I need to walk towards it. That's what two feet are for!

3. To avoid the "comfort foods," of which I have a very long list. I deserve to be happy, but logically, how does ingesting an extra 500 calories address my mood or issues?

4. To be diligent about daily exercise. I preach about the benefits of activity to my clients, so I need to stop being a hypocrite. Part of this will be to skip the elevators in two of the offices I use. As I climb, I will be carrying my briefcase, purse, and thermos. The extra resistance should help burn a few more calories!

5. To be hopeful. I didn't pack on the pounds overnight. I need to remember that permanent weight loss and maintenance is an ongoing process.

No, I'm NOT doing this for anyone else, or for my upcoming high school reunion. This is for ME, and for the pretty clothes that are waiting for me in the back of my closet.

I will be posting photos--before and after--at a future date. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

WE are the Economy

"Every man is the architect of his own fortune." -- Appius Claudius

Is anyone else tired of the onslaught of doom and gloom about the financial future of the city, the state, the nation, the world? Even as much as a realist as I am, I know I've long since been "done" with the wave of collective depression and helplessness. When I see the words "economy" and "recession" in the same sentence, my eyes just glaze over and I pull my attention elsewhere.

That's why, despite what I just wrote, I did watch the recent Charlie Rose segment with Warren Buffet. This is a man who looks like he could be someone's kindly uncle or grandpa (he's 81 now, still active, and looks damned good). From what I've read, he's driven the same car for a long time, and lived in the same house for forty-plus years. He's not someone who advocates extremes--living in a tent on one hand, or pulling some series of crazy schemes to get that mansion at others' expenses.

Mr. Buffet's biography reads like an inspirational American-boy-makes-good story. This is a person who started at age 13 with a paper route, started making money as a kid beginning with one pinball machine, and is now a billionaire. Yesterday we lost a visionary, Steve Jobs -- another who started with simple ideas, and wasn't afraid to dream big. Who knows what Mr. Jobs would have achieved had he lived longer, but his legacy, his ideas, will be seed for grander innovations to come.

My 9/10/10 post, "Back to Small," spoke of the potential power of independent businesses. Our country was founded on this kind of sheer hard work. It seems we've come full circle. And yes, even us in, or facing "retirement," need to be considering that we still have much to contribute in terms of energy and creativity. Bluntly, we gotten to be a country that's lost much of its vision, courage, and initiative. We have to make our own lives happen. The times of relying on "someone" (government, 40+ years in one job with cushy retirement to follow) to rescue us are gone. Like someone who gets dumped in a relationship -- once the initial pain and fear subside, the possibilities of independence begin to unfold.

Remember the anti-drug slogans, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste?" I have personally committed to actively work past age 100, like that inspirational Hedda Bolgar (written up in last Sunday's L.A. Times). I believe the incredible knowledge, experiences, and wisdom of older Americans is also "a terrible thing to waste." Along with our younger generations, each of us who willingly defies the roles ascribed to older Americans can assist in pushing our country past this current collective despair.

Let's stop thinking of "THE ECONOMY" as some self-propelled blob of evil, ready to consume everything and everyone in its path, like the monster in that cheesy sci-fi flick. The economy is simply the sum total of us, and our decisions. It is our past and present purchases, jobs, and financial portfolios. It is our wise investments, and our foolish impulses driven by greed, fear, or ego. It is each of us, and at the same time, all of us.

Mr. Buffet stated, in the Charlie Rose show, that things will be better -- someday. He spoke of us (collectively) as having been on a spree, and now we're paying for it with the inevitable hangover. Each of us should take his perspective to heart as a call to action. It's not necessary to aspire to be another Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs, but each of us can take responsibility for his or her own life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Joining a fight that isn't (at least now) too personal

While doing my usual Saturday grocery run yesterday, I picked up two Dannon Oikos yogurts. For one thing, I've developed a recent love for Greek-style yogurt. Another draw was the coupon I had. The third, and most compelling for me, was the label that said that Dannon will donate at least ten cents for every time someone goes to, and enters the code under the foil lid.

So, I did, and I feel a little sense of happiness to have contributed to the cause. Each donation of any kind, each 5/10K walk, each...anything...brings us closer to research leading to more effective diagnoses, treatments, and cures.

As far as "The Big C" bothering me, I've been very lucky -- so far. There are the my good genes and family history negative for breast cancer (except for the small tumor my maternal grandma had at 92, which got shrunk to virtually nothing by Tamoxifen by the time she died at 94). I do everything right, I think. Okay, so I'll admit to being irrationally squeamish about the recommended self-exams (What if I find a lump? How will I stand the fear?). But I DO go for the annual boob-squashing ritual, followed by a day or two of breath-holding...but that puts me in the clear, right?

In the fall of 2001, I got a thump on the head, of sorts. At that time, I was working as a case manager at Senior Care Network, a department of Huntington Hospital. It was about 2:30 PM on a Friday, and my office mate and I were doing the usual before-weekend paper shuffling and chatting casually.

My phone rang. A staffer from my doctor's office crisply said that my recent mammogram had been just read, and "they saw something." Would I mind coming in on Monday morning for a follow-up, and...have a nice weekend.

Right. Now that got my attention.

When my RN coworker noticed that I had been sitting for too long in a catatonic-like state, too quiet, she came over and gave me a hug. All of a sudden, words and images welled up and came flooding out, including every cancer story I had ever read or heard in my life. All kinds of "what if" scenarios bombarded me. What if it is cancer? What if they find that it's already spread too far? What if I got too sick to work, to finish my doctoral program, to see Eric grow up and get married....I wanted to live, to maybe find love again, to be a grandma....

Fear. Freaking-out Two of the other f-words. I was off and running with them.

I went home and stuttered out the news to my retired-nurse mom, who actually took it very well. Thankfully, she's always been a hard-core pragmatist, and had a wealth of professional reassurances to share, making my inevitable preoccupation over the weekend slightly easier.

Monday's follow-up appointment transpired, leading to some lab work, two more "inconclusive" mammograms, and a statement that "we'll let you know what else we're going to have done." I went about my work and home lives in a detached state, punctuated by periods of frustrated rages. "(Expletives deleted here), why can't they really tell me something? Am I sick, or am I OK?"

Finally, partly because she was really concerned about my emotional state, and also to quell the storm in our office, my coworker suggested I go to Huntington Hospital's Hill Breast Center. There, I ended up having a state-of-the-art breast ultrasound. They could see my "parts" in exquisite 3-D detail. Even in the throes of my worries, I was fascinated by the technology....and reassured at the end by it.

The doctor came in afterwords, took my hands in his, and said, "You're going to be fine. You just got breasts with lots of fibrous tissue."

I laughed and cried at the same time, relieved as I had never been before. "Fine" and "fibrous" are "f-words" I can live with very nicely, thank you very much. Call me a wimp if you want to, but this is the closest I want to come to having breast cancer. And I wish that for (yes, they can get breast cancer!) and women.

Having written this almost makes me feel sheepish. When I think of the women I know who weren't nearly as lucky as me (yes, I know some Stage 4 survivors, and also some who have passed away), I feel somewhat self-indulgent recalling my scare ten years ago.'s burned in my brain, and I won't look at the issue of breast cancer the same way again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Comforting anchors, as considered this October 1st

This is more than a month-by-month calendar. This is a fixture, as permanent to our house as the plumbing or wiring.

It's one of the calendars my Mom orders from the Miles Kimball catalog around early September. We were recalling the other day that she has been placing this same order, every year, for over forty years!

One goes on her bedroom wall, within easy viewing range of her bed, with its large numbers and uncluttered printing. Yes, Mom also has others hung on the walls, especially the ones from various animal causes showing cute puppies and kittens. This is the one, however, Mom automatically glances at when I'm telling her of some social or business-related function I'll be attending. It's her way, even at my age, of lovingly keeping tabs on me...(I sigh at the inevitability of that fact).

Another gets sent directly to my brother and his wife in their tiny South Carolina town, because, as he said to Mom one time, "It wouldn't seem like Christmas if I didn't get my calendar from you."

The one shown above has been hung on the kitchen wall for decades. I even recall--as far back as my days at John Muir Junior High--Mom marking doctor appointments and days I'd be late coming home from school in upper-case black marker notations. It was, for so long, the chronicle of our individual and family existences. Even when my son and I moved back here in 1988, Mom began noting, and continues to do so, "special events" on the very back page, which is the "Forget-Me-Not Diary." Such milestones have included when Eric and I planted the elm tree in the very back lawn when an old garage was torn down in 1988, the day I had the new back walk installed, and even when the cat Tiggy got spayed and had her teeth cleaned!

Fast forward -- and now I sadly admit that I've hardly ever looked at the kitchen calendar recently. It's there, of course, but I'm so dependent now on the one on my computer, with its email reminder feature. The only time I notice the Miles Kimball heirloom is when I'm standing, half-conscious in the early morning, brewing my coffee.

Even Eric, on one of his now-hurried visits now that he's married and moved away, remarked how the calendar is something he'd miss if it wasn't there.

In one of my recent redecorating brainstorm sessions, I actually thought of doing away with the kitchen calendar when I finally get around to repainting. But I don't have the heart. I hate to think of the void there would be if, in one of our family conversations, someone said, "Well, go look on the calendar..." and it wasn't there anymore.

No, the calendar stays, no matter what.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I was a social worker in another life, so here are some things for your consideration

I consider it both a responsibility and a pleasure to suggest that midlife persons investigate resources, such as the following, for their future well-being.

Please note: I do not have, or imply, any vested interest in the businesses listed below. I also do not assume any responsibility for any outcomes of any of my readers' transactions with these, or any similar businesses.

For Long-Term Care Insurance: Brian R. Kavanagh, Genworth Financial, 805-657-9559, We "boomers" are the "sandwich generation." While we are so busy caring for our young adult offspring--and for our aging loved ones, as well--we forget that we need to plan for the future. Brian is a very knowledgeable agent, as well as having a calming, reassuring demeanor. This is vital for those of us who may experience anxiety when we consider purchasing Long Term Care insurance, or any other contract which forces us to acknowledge that we (who may have gone by the credo "Don't trust anyone over 30") are not "immortal" or "invincible!"

For Financial Consultation: Shawn Francis, World Financial Group, 818-559-6367. In an age where real service and relationships in the financial services industry are rare, I have found both in Shawn Francis. I am appreciative of Shawn's knowledge of the potential financial vehicles available to mid-lifers like myself. Shawn's willingness to accommodate my busy schedule has been essential to me. He has been willing to sit and truly listen to my goals and concerns, and design a program that will address them, though he keeps a very busy schedule himself. I trust Shawn. He charges no fee for his services and while he is happy to serve the wealthy, his focus is on the everyday person and family that would otherwise be ignored by the industry, regardless of income. I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to speak with him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The AARP Life @ 50+ Convention in Los Angeles--or as I say, "Age be damned!"

It's 1:30 AM on Saturday, and I've got to wind down and sleep. Still, I feel compelled to write about my experience at this conference, and how it has enriched my life.

In the past several months, when I first became aware of this convention, I vacillated as to whether I was going to go or not, wrapping three days -- Wednesday the 21st, Thursday the 22nd, and today, Friday, the 23rd -- around my standing therapy appointments. In the end, my curiosity won out, and I'm glad I attended. I met some wonderful people, and have come away energized and inspired.

On Wednesday evening, we were escorted to a fleet of tour buses to go to the "Meet & Greet" at the L.A. Center Studios. We almost didn't make it. What was supposed to have been a quick jaunt down Figueroa ended up being an hour-plus odyssey with a bus driver who was young, inexperienced -- and totally lost. After an unintended scenic tour that nearly took us to Long Beach, and having a busload of disgruntled riders ready to mutiny and commandeer the vehicle, some stepped to the front and convinced the driver to get back on the freeway toward "home."

Ultimately, the Meet & Greet proved worth it. There were catering trucks with quality grub, including one from In 'N Out Burger, a bakery, and some vegetarian fare. There was a cash bar and free wine tasting. What made the evening, though, was the jazz sounds of The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. How wonderful to see so many jumping up and down, waving their arms rhythmically as if they were kids at a rock concert, and dancing under the stars.

When we packed into the Nokia Theater on Thursday, passing the bag checks at the security check-points, we were all thrilled hear Jon Secada give a heartfelt performance of the national anthem. Jon also performed at Friday's Ice Cream Social. Major Villaraigosa and AARP officials were on hand to set the tone with an encouraging welcome, and it was also a learning experience. CEO Addison Barry Rand told us that AARP got its start in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal who had begun the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947. Dr. Jane Goodall, who most of us remember from the National Geographic documentaries we saw growing up, gave us elders an urgent call to action on behalf of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. The Jane Goodall Institute, together with its Roots and Shoots program, helps combat ignorance and apathy among youth who have despaired over being able to turn back some of the damage inflicted by prior generations. For a dramatic shift in tone, the show ended with the riotous comedy gifts of Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. I wanted to get Dr. Goodall's autograph on one of her books, but I got distracted among the vendor booths, and didn't get to that area in time. I consoled myself with ambling around the vendors, from travel firms to computer companies--to things like Depends and hearing aids!

My AARP experience was topped off with the Friday return visit to the Nokia Plaza for the Ice Cream Social. The Rope Master amazed early arrivals with his talent with novel moves with an ordinary jump rope. I also enjoyed walking among antique automobiles, buffed to a mirror shine. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of some representatives of a local chapter of the Red Hat Society ( Fueled by a combination of ice cream and Cosmopolitans, I followed them onto a packed dance floor, and we concluded that the music of the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band is the best damned fibulator in the world!

The most important thing I have taken away is the camaraderie I felt and observed, and the validation of my belief that "life does begin at 50." I feel a renewed sense of purpose, hope, and responsibility to my generation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts for Labor Day, 2011

When we're kids, either at play or in school, we are encouraged to ponder, "What do I want to be?"

Fast forward a few decades, and wherever we go, one of the first questions posed is, "So, what do you do?"

At what point, in so many of our lives, does being and doing become separated?

It could start when, after the glossiness of being in that new (often first) job wears off, due, perhaps to fatigue, confusion, or the embarrassment of having made your first "mistake." It's one that usually doesn't result in termination, but it's one that gets burned in your brain FOREVER. It's then that, sadly and often, an older, jaded colleague will take you aside and say, "Hey, kid, it's just a job!"

Ouch. For this you went through years of school, richly envisioned a career path, sent out resumes, ran the interview gauntlet, idealistically hoping that you would stand out, be noticed, and make a difference? How many kids do you hear say, in their playtime fantasies of the future, "Awww, I just wanna job..."? No, they dare to dream, and it usually involves doing something--humble or grand--that somehow leaves a legacy.

At church yesterday, our interim pastor, Rev. Mike Young, led a service that was rich in material to mine for this post. In the opening words, we read in unison, "May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations,/and inspired to bring our gifts of/love and service to the altar of/humanity./May we know once again/ that we/are not isolated beings/but connected, in mystery and/miracle, to the universe,/to this community and to each/other."

Mike then told a sweet story to the children, "The Stone in the Road," about a miserly, rich old man in Persia, who became more abundant in spirit once he shared his treasure, buried under the boulder in the middle of the road, over which everyone tripped. A little beggar boy happened upon the old man's stash as he pried up the rock, simply because he was tired of falling over it. One of the messages Mike underscored to the young listeners was that the "issues" we "trip over" in life can be used to our advantage if we stop simply complaining about them and look for the solution. (More on that in posts to come!). As I heard Mike tell this story, I also thought of Jesus' story of keeping one's candle under a bushel, and how our lighting up people's lives means being bold, and putting our energy out there for everyone to see and use. Being "the light of the world" is generous and loving, but it can be risky on many levels, and that's why so much--in our personal and work lives--remains undone, and unacknowledged. How many times do we not reach out to our loved ones because we assume they "just won't understand?" Or, at work, we sit silent in staff meetings because we're afraid of saying something that would be "stupid," and we think it might reflect badly on the image our peers have of us? Little by little, our "light" gets extinguished, and no one would know the power it might have had on the moment...

It would be easy to belabor (pardon the use of this word) the topic of unemployment stats, stock market, the GDP, the IMF, etc., etc. When the children left the sanctuary, Mike discussed, for the grown-up ears, just how illusory the whole concept of money ("pieces of paper") really is. He also reminded us of something I've said on the web about collective fear being the primary driving force of the economy these days, as opposed to actual scarcity of funds, or seeing community work projects that need doing. The amount of "stuff" is still there; it's a matter of how it's being distributed that is problematic. It's very easy for our society to become like that old man in Mike's story, when competing priorities scream at us from the headlines. Sharing resources with our communities under these circumstances is not always easy, but, as Mike stated, it serves "enlightened self-interest." With each of us doing our small share, we each benefit. Is it any accident that there are now coaches/therapists coming forward in increasing numbers, offering services to help people with their "relationship with money?" In the same vein, there are employment coaches, and therapists who intervene when workplace bullying causes employees to feel threatened and disempowered, trapped in situations that are psychologically unsafe.

Perhaps we also need to look at work as something we are, not simply what we do (re-read the first two lines of this post). I'd be horribly remiss if I neglected to acknowledge unpaid laborers--including volunteers, family caregivers, house-spouses, stay-at-home parents--as part of the force. This can help rekindle some of the initial joy of our jobs, and help take pride in how we serve others on a daily basis. In other words, from a relationship perspective, we can revive the passion we once had, and combat the burnout that can so suddenly overtake us. And for those who have been laid off and are "resorting" to taking a job that is "not what I'm really looking for," I would suggest that there is dignity in all work, and it's mentally as well as financially healing to look for that worth. The pain of this current economy is in large part about feeling displaced, and no longer feeling useful. It's sort of like getting dumped in a relationship, but eventually, other passionate connections can be made. It's a matter of rolling away the boulder, and fiercely, courageously looking at unconsidered possibilities.

At the end of the service, we read Marge Percy's, "To Be of Use:"

I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
Who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along.
Who stand in the line and haul in their places,
Who are not parlor generals and field deserters but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands,
crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, Hopi vases that held corn, are put in
museums but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Unexpected Sunday Gift

This morning, Sunday, 9:30 AM: I gulped my black rocket fuel from the hot stainless-steel travel mug, juggling my brief case, keys, and overstuffed purse as I hoped that I could get to Studio City, find a parking spot, and dash into church before 10:00 AM worship starts. Not that anyone takes roll -- it's just that my early indoctrination about being ON TIME has stuck with me after all these years.

I briefly considered "ditching," telling myself that I had "too much" to catch up on before seeing my afternoon clients.

Now I'm glad I didn't.

The sermon title on the marquee, "Showing Up and Saying YES!" was certainly intriguing. Quietly opening the door at the back of the sanctuary, the first thing I saw and heard was this man, Jason Poole, calling us to the service with Sounding the Pu and Oli Aloha, traditional Hawaiian welcoming chants. This was new to me, and beautiful.

Jason's talk, about listening to one's inner voice (demonstrated by touching his middle torso) spoke to the need to reach out to others. It also was about the triumph of courage over doubt, indifference, and fear of involvement. His premise, the benefit of saying "yes" when one's knee-jerk reaction is to retreat with a "no," flies in the face of much of our isolating tendencies. All too often, our self-protective "boundaries" have become barricades, interfering with our ability to serve our neighboring human beings. When Jason touched his torso, I thought of the old expression "having a fire in one's belly," and what it is for people to be truly passionate about life.

Jason told about his life journey from Pittsburgh to New York City to Molokai, Hawaii, transitions driven originally by his triumph over illness and a desire to express himself through the dramatic arts. His voice was clear and vibrant, keeping our collective rapt attention. When he gave us several musical offerings on his ukulele, I noticed more than one person moved to tears of joy.

Jason teaches classes in Hawaiian music to New York City youth, and I would love to suggest that he expand this work to include senior citizens. Music is so transcendent, I can visualize the mental health benefits for elders with depression or early-stage dementia.

Check out Jason Poole Pilipo Solatario's blog at:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Of course, the "end" is near...

Each day we face as we wake up, each moment we live, is both a beginning and an the best senses of the words.

We create our world, and our reality, with our thoughts and actions, all the time.

Instead of reacting in fear, let's use each day--not just tomorrow, May 21st--as a way to reinvent ourselves and make the world the best it can be. Sounds simplistic, but it's about as straightforward as I can make it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RIP & Happy Anniversary

Today would have been Lyle's and my 28th wedding anniversary.

Wherever your soul dwells, Lyle, I hope you know that I owe you a debt of gratitude for the time we had together, and for the wonderful son whose life arose from it. In fact, Eric's own second wedding anniversary is coming up next Monday.

I like to think that you're watching us, and haven't missed a thing as we move forward in our lives.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I've recently become a serious fan of Robert Fritz. His post today, "Regeneration," echoes the sentiments I wrote about in my last blog post. Please go to

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday, May 1st!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Renewal 2011

This year, in fact, for the first time in my recollection, I am energized with an urge to renew and change.

The impulse has spilled over into various aspects of my life. Utilizing the muscle of my 6'5" son, I have moved furniture around in my living and dining rooms, giving the spaces a much more open feel. The fireplace mantle is adorned with a steady supply of fresh roses from my garden, and their fragrance is the best form of aromatherapy.

In the kitchen, I'm rethinking what's on my counter-top and in the cupboards. If it's not going to be used, off it goes to charity or to my daughter-in-law. As I do this purge, I recall to mind Dr. David Whyte's concept of "radical simplification," and it's so freeing!

And I'm boycotting my TV for awhile. While I've never considered myself a hard-core couch potato, there are some reruns that, as beloved as they are, need to be put to the side. Instead, I've bumped up my personal reading time, which is as essential to my cognitive health as my professional journal-reading is to my career.

Here's what I've got going on, concurrently, by my bedside:

Passages in Caregiving, by Gail Sheehy. This book will join her other work in my bookcase.

Take the Stress out of Your Life by Jay Winner, M.D. This comes with two CD's, to which I have already begun listening.

The Art of Non-Conformity:Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World, by Chris Guillebeau. This looks like a blueprint for my continued midlife journey.

And, to prepare for viewing the movie, I've resumed reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Last, I recommend to my readers some of the work of David Whyte:

This promises to be a season of renewal on many levels for me...