Monday, November 18, 2019

Info, memories and associations

Information from the outside, memories of the outside, associations and thoughts can all be floating around in my head.  When I write "outside", I mean the world, both the nearby world of my house and neighborhood and the solar system and the rest of the physical world. My senses include what I see and hear but also tastes and smells and the feel of surfaces.  Those physical senses let me know what's going on, to some extent, even though I can't see some things that exist, like the wi-fi waves that are traveling through the house right now. Memories spring up all the time. We drove from The Inn at the River to Stevens Point this morning.  When I look at the street out the window just now, I remember how the roads looked on that drive.  

We were concerned about road conditions.  In Wisconsin at this time of year, it is only sensible to be on the lookout for weather-related problems.  

Associations are tricky.  I am prompted by thoughts of road conditions to think of road conditions I like and those that I don't.  I see unbidden pictures of giant road chains on giant 18-wheelers' giant tires. Part of me associates the title of the book by Jon Kabat-Zinn with what I have been writing about.  The book is "Coming to Our Senses". I have heard of that book and I suspect I would live better and more fully if I paid better attention to my senses. Did I ever buy that book? Do I already have it in my Kindle library?  [Looked it up and yes, I do have it. Must read it!]

It might be getting older, it might be meditation practices, it might be something else or some combination, but I feel more interest, even a little hunger for meditation.  I was proud of seeing how to enrich my life in just five or ten minutes a day. I looked down on the idea of sitting in meditation for an hour or hours of several days running.  But lately, my senses, my memories, my associations and my thoughts have seemed richer, deeper, more interesting, more satisfying. I can see more value in extended meditation time. 

I have been fooling around with focused attention in a meditative way since about 1980.  I thought I was doing that to increase my awareness of what I was thinking about. If I was obsessing about my hair or my weight, I wanted to notice that I was obsessing and about what.  But now it seems that I actually produce a wider range of sensory observations, memories, associations and thoughts about all of them than I used to. I have also been aware that I am more in the mood to talk to myself than I used to be.  I can quickly question sensory impressions. Vocalizing questions or comments to myself, even in complete silence, seems to pull in a wider range of reactions, questions, realizations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The afterlife of parents

My parents have been dead for years now and yet I find them still alive and active in my head.  Of course, my grandparents are in there, too. And, yes, I am curious about their own early memories of all four of them.  I never knew my paternal grandparents at all. They died before I was born.  

I guess research tends to find our earliest memories go back to about age 2 ½ but I suspect that feelings of what's right, what I lack, where I shine are more with me than feelings or facts of actual events or speech.  I am interested in the acts of speaking and writing but it occurs to me that I never seem to have received much written communication from my parents.  

There were many times as a boy and as a man, that I disagreed with directives or principles of conduct they supported.  I tended to be an independent thinker and I was and am often motivated by attempts to assist, cheer or obtain admiration.  As a kindergartener, I thought walking back to school after lunch at home would be nicer and more impressive if I donned a pre-tied necktie.  Neckties are decorative and more formal, right? I ignored the fact that I was wearing a "jersey", an upscale t-shirt, whose low collar is not usually worn with a little necktie.  That sort of collar shows the metal clasp behind the neck, an outsized version of the tiny clasp of a high class necklace. This fashion innovation of mine was sufficiently provocative that my teacher phoned my mother to let her know about my sartorial advances.  In this case, I had in fact "improved" my dress without checking with my mom. I was a big boy and didn't need mothering and such.

I have found deep pleasure in libraries and books all my life.  I remember the holiness and concentration and wonder I experienced when my mother took me to the imposing main Enoch Pratt library in downtown Baltimore to obtain my library card.  

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Monster Walk

Yesterday, the physical therapist I have been working with introduced me to the "monster walk".  I guess a lumbering sort of waddle-walk seems ominous and therefore what a monster might do to get himself around.  To do the monster walk, one steps forward but neither straight ahead nor to the side, but in between, about 45° off straight ahead.  One does this sort of walking to strengthen leg, upper thigh and pelvic and abdominal muscles. The therapist says that they are important for joint stability, which means keeping joints, especially the spine, where they should be and not straining them or asking them to move in damaging ways.  

To increase strength, muscles need to be "challenged" or stressed.  Resistance bands, large bands of stretchy plastic, are wonderful for the job.  Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to use and available in all sorts of tension strengths, you can get them online or in retail stores.  Our local Wal-Mart and Target carry them. You can get them in resistances of light, medium and heavy. I bought a selection a few years ago and at the time and with that seller, "gold" bands were the highest resistance.  I just looked up Academy resistance bands and find that they can be purchased in strengths of 50, 60 and even 100 lbs. I recommend you just go light and use whatever an experienced therapist recommends. Some people, especially men, get all gung-ho and strain something or worse.  Naturally, strong irritation, pain and injury put a big damper on plans to be stronger and more fit.

Since the monster walk, going forward and as important or more so, going backward, involves motion, a video can be helpful.  I said to the therapist that I bet the monster walk, with resistance band in place was on YouTube. YouTube seems to have everything and I have a difficult time finding anything that isn't already on there.  She said that monster walks were on many videos and can be searched out.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Disastrous dipsomanic drinkware

Salvador Dali painted "The Persistence of Memory" in 1931.  Who? This man:

What ?  This painting:

You can see that watches more or less melted.  So, you can see why I think this are Salvador Dali-esque mugs:

I have persistently stood up for these objects d'art as the serendipitous warning they are, the artistic happenstance from the gods warning us about temperature, caffeine and alcohol.  I have enlisted the support of a sister artist and am slowly making progress in elevating this treasures from the status of trashy failures to magnificent achievements. The cooperation of two experienced potters went into the creation of these marvels.  Gaze fondly! You won't see their like elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


The caller states that "my social security number has been compromised due to some suspicious activity" and that I need to call him immediately at the number he states repeatedly.  How he knows about this problem is not clear. What the suspicious activity is and what suspicions someone has and who and why are additional topics that are not explored. The caller repeated the urgent message several times and then ended with this statement: "Now, if we don't get a call back immeditately, we will be forced to issue a warrant for your arrest."

So, I have taken to the hills to hide out.  It is quite cold outside and I am unhappy at this development.  It is no fun lugging a pack, a sleeping bag and a camoflage tarp to the hills.  I live far from any hills worth the name so it is a bother. I didn't compromise my account.  I didn't engage in suspicious activity so why is it me that needs to trek back in the hills til this thing blows over?  If you don't hear from me for a while, don't worry. I am trying to nibble on a rabbit and stay warm.

Memories of back then

For our birthdays, the kids and their kids and their kids have made us long lists of things they love about us. To compose several pages of positive memories and traits and comments, multiple heads need to participate.  It is surprising how well a grandmother approaching 60 years of age can remember so clearly being scolded by the teacher in elementary school for forging her parents' signature on a math test. The requirement was to have your parents look at the test and sign that they had seen it.  Ooops! Time to hand in the signed papers and she forgot to get a signature. Oh well, I will just write my parents' name. I did well on the test anyhow so what is the big deal?

The teacher detected the forgery and didn't take the act lightly.  Has the student forgotten ? No, she hasn't. I didn't ask how logical the requirement seemed then or now.  I was also told that misbehavior in the class had earned a loss of recess. The student in question had been sent to the library during the overly-rowdy session.  She was assisting the teacher in alphabetizing cards of borrowed books. The student pleaded her case, pointing out that she wasn't even in the room during the rowdy class.  She was told that the punishment applied to the whole class and the teacher could not make exceptions. 

I am loved because I didn't get angry about the problem of signing the paper.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Muscle memory

A friend was surprised to learn about muscle memory.  He must not have a car that is started with a push button.  If you make a car where a button is pressed to start the engine, what is to prevent the wrong person from pressing it?  Theoretically, a fob.

With the fob in my pocket, I press my foot on the brake and push the start button.  Without the fob, nothing happens. With the fob in my pocket, the car door will open but without it, no entry.  I lived in the big city and used public transportation to date. It wasn't until my junior year in college that I learned to drive.  I have been retired for more than a decade now so learning to drive was many years ago. The whole time, I drove using a metal key to start the engine.  

Get in and insert the key.  My eyes, my feeling of being the driver's seat combine to make me think of the ignition key.  There is no ignition key. It doesn't work that way - anymore. My fob has been doing its job every day for a couple of months now but still, I expect a key.  My hands want a key. There was always a key before. Where is the key?

My muscles, my brain, my nervous system - they can be persistent in their pursuit of the routine, the procedure, the moves they learned.  They are habituated and every time, I get in the car, say 4 to 6 times a day, the body components prompt me to use a key, whether there is a key or not.  I have faith in my ability to learn a new procedure. Some day, I will be at ease with a keyless car.  

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