Daily Archives: October 16, 2017

23 and Me

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the genetics company 23 and Me to participate in a genetics study on bipolar. I have been talking to my wife for almost two years about doing the 23 and Me thing anyway, just because I thought it was pretty cool and wanted to have a […]


Had a wonderful commute into Clinton.  I decided last night to hunt up my Gold City Quartet CD and listen to it a few times.  I was inspired by the concert that my church gave last night that included one of their songs.  I had the best time singing along to it this morning.

My middle one came home to fill out her insurance paperwork where we can finally settle the bills from her car accident in April.  She was good medicine.  Her and Bob went to a movie together, and me and the youngest went Operation Christmas Child gift shopping.  She had already been with her grandmother so she knew exactly what to get that would fit into the Shoebox.  She packed them up herself, too.  I mainly went along to provide the funds for the endeavor.  She is so independent in so many things.  Makes me feel even more useless than usual in raising her.

I go see Tillie tomorrow, but things are really going well.  The teaching is improving as I make praying about it more of a focus.  Things that would have thrown me for a loop are just rolling right off–I say I’m sorry and go and do better.  So I think I will have a good report tomorrow.  I’m back at the point that I sometimes forget I have bipolar disorder.  That is a good place to be.



An Optimist’s Calendar

When I’m sick with lung crud, I like to have a project to keep me busy.  This time I worked on a birthday present for my nurse practitioner, Sarah.  She is a sunny, terminally optimistic, giggle factory, so I thought what better than to make her An Optimist’s Calendar.

Honestly, I don’t know how these ideas come to fruition.  I read an article about using teabags in art a while back and remember thinking, What about the wrappers?  And, I think, calendar made me think of Advent calendars with their little treats hidden inside each day.

Each of my daily pockets holds at least two tiny, positive, bits of art.  Some have three.  I just made as many as I could with all the scraps of stuff I have lying around.  A lot of the art came from magazines like Art Journaling; Somerset Studio; Cloth, Paper, Scissors, Teesha Moore’s collage sheets, and all the stamps I’ve collected.  Itty bitty stuff kept safe in my ziplock sandwich bag filing system.

I’ll be posting those Penny Positives in the months to come.

It was a work of love, and I’m excited to give it to her on Friday when we have our monthly session (her birthday is on Halloween).  Megan, my therapist, claims Sarah will cry when she sees it, but I don’t think so.  Since she loves her chickens so much, I think she’s more inclined to cluck.

What about healthcare?- by Mica La Vita

Of late, I have been reflecting about what the next 10 years of my life will look like. This process has led me to ask serious questions about my activism, […]

Living near a forest keeps your amygdala healthier


Country living or living near a forest is good for your amygdala! That means less mental illness, less stress, less fear, less anxiety, more health! Who’s coming with me?!


October 13, 2017

Living near a forest seems to have a positive effect on the stress-processing brain areas. Researchers found that city dwellers living close to a forest were more likely to have a healthy brain structure than those with no access to nature near their home.

A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has investigated the relationship between the availability of nature near city dwellers’ homes and their brain health. Its findings are relevant for urban planners among others.


Noise, pollution, and many people in a confined space: Life in a city can cause chronic stress. City dwellers are at a higher risk of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia than country dwellers. Comparisons show higher activity levels in city dwellers’ than in country dwellers’ amygdala—a central nucleus in the brain that plays an important role in stress processing and reactions to danger. Which factors can have a protective influence? A research team led by psychologist Simone Kühn has examined which effects nature near people’s homes such as forest, urban green, or wasteland has on stress-processing brain regions such as the amygdala. “Research on brain plasticity supports the assumption that the environment can shape brain structure and function. That is why we are interested in the environmental conditions that may have positive effects on brain development. Studies of people in the countryside have already shown that living close to nature is good for their mental health and well-being. We therefore decided to examine city dwellers,” explains first author Simone Kühn, who led the study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and now works at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

Indeed, the researchers found a relationship between place of residence and brain health: those city dwellers living close to a forest were more likely to show indications of a physiologically healthy amygdala structure und were therefore presumably better able to cope with stress. This effect remained stable when differences in educational qualifications and income levels were controlled for. However, it was not possible to find an association between the examined brain regions and urban green, water, or wasteland. With these data, it is not possible to distinguish whether living close to a forest really has positive effects on the amygdala or whether people with a healthier amygdala might be more likely to select residential areas close to a forest. Based on present knowledge, however, the researchers regard the first explanation as more probable. Further longitudinal studies are necessary to accumulate evidence.

The participants in the present study are from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) – a larger longitudinal study examining the physical, psychological, and social conditions for healthy aging. In total, 341 adults aged 61 to 82 years took part in the present study. Apart from carrying out memory and reasoning tests, the structure of stress-processing brain regions, especially the amygdala, was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In order to examine the influence of nature close to peoples’ homes on these brain regions, the researchers combined the MRI data with geoinformation about the participants’ places of residence. This information stemmed from the European Environment Agency’s Urban Atlas, which provides an overview of urban land use in Europe.

“Our study investigates the connection between urban planning features and brain health for the first time,” says co-author Ulman Lindenberger, Director of the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world population is expected to be living in cities. These results could therefore be very important for urban planning. In the near future, however, the observed association between the brain and closeness to forests would need to be confirmed in further studies and other cities, stated Ulman Lindenberger.




(A warning to my kids: Do not read further. I repeat, do not read further. You don’t want to know.)

ADIDAS. No, not the tennis shoe—it’s an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex. 

Well, I do. There, I said it. I dream about it at night, too. And I confess that I miss it like crazy. There wasn’t a whole lot of it in the last few years of Will’s life, but what there was, was magical. We were very compatible in that arena from the start of our relationship; while I wasn’t a virgin when I met him, he introduced me to new ways of lovemaking that showed me some of the possibilities of life and now that he’s gone, I wonder if I will ever experience anything like it again.

For the first year after he died, I couldn’t imagine even wanting to meet another man. Even now, I don’t really want to, or if I did, I’d want one in my life—not in my house. There’s no real likelihood that I’ll ever meet someone I’d want to co-habitate with, let alone marry; I have too much baggage (both literally and figuratively) and of course, there’s always the bipolar. No one with the sense God gave a goat would want to deal with that. Hell, I don’t want to deal with it. Besides, no man could ever take Will’s place—why would I go for hamburger when I had filet mignon for thirty-six years?

So when you get down to where the cheese binds, all I want is someone to have a good time with. Is that disloyal?

Part of me says very definitely Yes. Will was my husband, my life; how can I even THINK about being with anybody else? But then, if the situation were reversed and I were the one who passed away, I wouldn’t want him to be lonely forever, and I’m sure he’d feel the same way about me. I’m too young to go through the rest of my life without enjoying the gift of lovemaking ever again. I just don’t want complications or drama. I’ve been out of the dating scene for almost four decades…I don’t even know how it’s done these days. In a perfect world, I could simply hire a hot 30-year-old who can scratch that itch without romantic entanglements. (Like I can afford a male escort on my fixed income. Know any more jokes?)

Yes, I am aware that there are more realistic (not to mention efficient) ways to, well, release all that pent-up energy, but it’s not the same. There is nothing more seductive than the male body in all its glory. A friend of mine introduced me to a Facebook site called Cougar Prey, which is loaded with photos of gorgeous men in different states of undress without revealing absolutely everything, and I go there often just to drool. I hate the term “cougar” and don’t want to think of myself as one, but I’m sure not fantasizing about 60-year-old guys with a double chin and a beer belly. Haha!



Blame it on the weather


Over the years I’ve noticed my mood changes when the weather changes.  Like most people, in the spring and summer I’m pretty happy.  But when the fall season starts to come I imagine somewhere in my brain there are all these little monsters who take up residence and it’s their sole job to wreck havoc with my mood.  If they can’t succeed in making me really depressed, than they tend to settle for just detached and a little irritable.  It’s in these moments that I wish I had a team of “ghost busters” to come into my brain and rid myself of these terrible creatures.

How much of this is bipolar disorder and how much is “normal?”

I think those of us who have learned to manage bipolar disorder can get pretty hyper-sensitive about our moods.  Maybe monitoring ourselves to the point of over analysis.  But I have to say it’s really difficult to strike a balance between what is just a natural reaction to circumstances and what is the ugly illness that rears it’s head.

But it is true there is actually an illness called Seasonal Affective Disorder.  When the seasons change the lovely depression is ushered in.  She sits in a powerful position sucking the life out of her victims.  She brings a cloud of fog that gets sprayed directly into the frontal lobe, making memory, concentration and just wanting to get out of bed a challenge.  If depression were a person with a name, I’d call her a B**CH.  And sorry ladies I hate to pick on the females, but depression certainly has the male version as well.  That’s the irritable, mean party where nothing that comes out of my mouth is positive.  That depression is clearly a male and he is a B***TARD.

So just when I think I’m going to spend most of my time writing thoughtful articles about vulnerability and maybe even start writing about other topics as well.  I got stopped in my tracks with a nasty episode that’s kind of dragging it’s way through my nice little life.  I can blame it all on the weather, except the past few days have been beautiful.  Blue skies and sunshine.  Not very depressing.

At the end of the day, I’m just taking a deep breath and accepting what is.  I’m gonna go to sleep early and get up at the crack of dawn.  I’m always hopeful the fog will lift in the morning.  But with a mood disorder, you never know what you’re gonna get.  It’s sneaky like that…not very reliable.

Before I sign off I just have to say, “I HATE depression.”  There.  That made me feel better.