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.http://www.the350project.net. 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 (http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/oskar_eustis).

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 www.midlifecrisesrecovery.com.

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. So...in 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 usual....so 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 CroneMagazine.com 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: www.junginla.org.

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.