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Archive for October 2011

Home decor grief

The two women I wrote about in my Sunday story are my exact age, 56. So when I saw the photo of Carol Willette's 8th birthday party, it brought back so many memories of home decor, circa 1960s, specifically the thick, flowered drapes.

When I see in old movies, and on vintage television shows, furniture and furnishings from the late 1950s to mid-1960s  (the style is having a revival now, by the way), I often feel such longing for what seemed like a much simpler time. Only three television channels. No voicemail or email. Board games on rainy Saturdays.

I know it is easy to romanticize the past, and I love and use technology everyday, but that old home decor plugs into some grief feelings, especially sadness.

Anyone else have this experience when you see the decor in old movies and television shows? 

(Photo courtesy of Carol Willette)

Hallowed, holy and fun

A trilogy of holidays is upon us. While the children are counting their trick-or-treat candy pieces, other folks will be preparing for the other holidays which are attached to Halloween (All Hallows' Eve).   

November 1 is All Saints' Day - a feast day in the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations when believers honor all saints - known and unknown.  

November 2 is All Souls' Day - a feast that observes the departed souls who didn't make it to sainthood status. Basically, our deceased friends and loved ones.  

The tradition of going door to door and asking for candy is similar to the late medieval practice of souling: when poor people would go to homes and ask for food in exchange for saying prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day.  

Today, the Day of the Dead, as it is known in the Latin American culture, is gaining popularity in the United States.  Often families will take picnics to the cemetery and decorate the graves of deceased love ones.

 Whatever your beliefs  at Hallows' Eve, the kids are cute, the candy is tasty and everyday is a good one for remembering those whose earthly journeys have ceased.

(S-R archives photo)

15 suicides every hour

Fifteen suicides an hour? That's the rate in India, according to an Associated Press story.

Financial difficulties and debts led to most of the male suicides while women were driven to take their lives because of domestic pressures and demands for dowry. A report released late Thursday says nearly 135,000 people committed suicide in the country of 1.2 billion last year. The report says the suicide rate increased to 11.4 per 100,000 people in 2010 from 10.9 the year before.

India suicides account for 20 percent of all suicides worldwide.

Just darn sad.

Remembering Laura Crooks

Five years ago today, Laura Crooks, a writer and editor at The Spokesman-Review, died suddenly at home while working on her son's Halloween costume.

She was just 37, mother of two young children and wife to Gary, an associate editor here still.

A few of us reminisced today over coffee about the amazing Laura — her relentless energy, her quickness at the computer and how she would call BS on you in a minute. She was a truth-teller, for sure.

We lose family members throughout our lives but we also lose beloved co-workers and that becomes part of our grief story, too. Missing Laura today and I'm not alone in the missing.

(Photo courtesy of Gary Crooks)

Lessons from Autumn

The leaves are turning and the weather is finally great for walks in crisp, cool, intoxicating air.

The seasons give us lessons - dormant rest in winter, the eager new life of spring, full passion in summer and the brilliance of autumn. Autumn offers final lessons, closing remarks and last-minute opportunities.  Autumn reminds us of the importance of those “door-knob statements:” comments made in the leaving (pun intended),  those moments of good-bye when the heart finally speaks.

Our lives parallel this autumn season: our later years may bring the best of life. 

(S-R archives photo)

Would you pay $120,000 for a kidney?

So a New York man pleaded guilty today to brokering kidneys.

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum found kidneys for New Jersey-based customers in exchange for “payments of $120,000 or more,” according to the Associated Press.

The man's lawyers claimed that their client actually did a good deed. The three people who paid the money are alive today.

Can't you just see this one in an ethics class someday: The man knew how to get kidneys. Sure, he broke the law by charging for them. But the three people in need of kidneys are alive. They had the money. They paid. Is it so wrong?


(S-R archives photo)

St. Steve of Jobs?

CNN asked four experts whether the culture is turning Steve Jobs into a saint right now, despite the fact he was a Buddhist, not from a saint-making faith tradition.

Theologian Gary M. Laderman of Emory University said: “Make no mistake about it, the veneration we are seeing in the aftermath of Jobs’ death is religious through and through - not “kinda” religious, or “pseudo” religious,” or “mistakenly” religious, but a genuine expression for many of heartfelt sacred sentiments of loss and glorification.”

(S-R archives photo)

Some light reading from the CDC

Every week, I get a heads-up email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its next day release of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Here are the headlines:
  1. Invasive Group A Streptococcus in a Skilled Nursing Facility — Pennsylvania, 2009–2010
This report describes a cluster of invasive group A Streptococcus infections among residents of a skilled nursing facility specializing in neurologic and pulmonary care.
  1. Progress Toward Global Eradication of Dracunculiasis, January 2010–June 2011
This report describes the progress of the global Guinea Worm Eradication Program.
  1. Notice of CDC’s Discontinuation of Investigational Pentavalent (ABCDE) Botulinum Toxoid Vaccine for Workers at Risk of Occupational Exposure to Botulinum Toxins

This notice provides information on CDC’s discontinuation of investigational pentavalent (ABCDE) botulinum toxoid (PBT) for vaccination of workers at risk for occupational exposure to botulinum serotypes A, B, C, D, and E.


Live to a 100: Your genes will help

One hundred folks 100 and older are part of a project to study their entire collection of DNA, called whole-genome sequencing, to uncover some secrets to longevity.

 According to the Associated Press story:

By the time you reach, say, 105, “it's very hard to get there without some genetic advantages,” says Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrics expert at Boston University. Perls is helping find centenarians for the Archon Genomics X Prize competition. The X Prize Foundation, best known for a spaceflight competition, is offering $10 million in prize money to researchers who decipher the complete DNA code from 100 people older than 100. The contest will be judged on accuracy, completeness and the speed and cost of sequencing.

When journalists interview folks 100 and above, most credit their lifestyles, but another researcher, Dr. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, pointed out that “many in the group studied were obese or overweight. Many were smokers, and few exercised or followed a vegetarian diet. His oldest participant, who died this month just short of her 110th birthday, smoked for 95 years.

My mother will turn 91 next month. Her grandfather, family lore has it, died at 104 after getting kicked by a mule in the hills of his Italian village. She's banking on hanging around a while longer.

How about your genes? Long or short?

(AP file photo of 116-year-old Maria Esther de Capovilla, of Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 2005, then one of the oldest living person on Earth.)

Madman…genius. A post-mortem on Steve Jobs

The man gave us a superhighway to the e-world. Yet, his world was filled with self-imposed obstacles to healthy relationships.  Did his disregard for women stem from his own abandonment? What price did Jobs pay for his amazing contribution to our lives and our future? Maureen Dowd gives us a quick glimpse at Walter Isaacson’s new biography on Steve Jobs.  A glimpse into a life of brilliance, of madness.

(S-R archives photo)

Miracle in Turkey

When the human spirit is filled with hope, miracles occur. The story today out of Turkey is welcome news after reading about all the death that the earthquake has left. A baby is alive and deemed healthy; her mother and grandmother pulled out alive, too. The country will set aside its usual hostility with countries like Israel and accept aid for its suffering citizens. Goodwill among enemies, a welcomed miracle.

Cuban Missile Crisis: End of Innocence

Two women I'm writing about for a Sunday story were second-graders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Spokane in 1962 when the Cuban Missile Crisis was upon us.

It was going on exactly 49 years ago this week. Cuba, with Soviet Union backing, was prepared to use nuclear weapons against us to defend Cuba.

The women remember doing drills and running across the street from Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral to a building that then housed Smith Funeral Home.

I am the same age as the women and remember we were told to run home from St. Charles School as fast as we could for the drill. If we could make it in 15 minutes, we could run in the event of a nuclear attack. If not, we were to stay at school.

I got lost (we lived 30 minutes away) and luckily a woman in the school neighborhood (a friend of my mom's) gave me shelter.

The women who ran to the funeral home remember their worry that the world was ending. Me, too,

Our innocence died rather young.

Any Cuban Missile Crisis memories out there? 

(AP archive photo of President Kennedy addressing the nation about the crisis)

A state senator’s untimely death

Washington state Sen. Scott White was found dead in his hotel room over the weekend while attending a conference and the first reports of the death were vague as to the reason he died.

I felt guilty today — when a Seattle PI story revealed he died from an undetected cardiac problem, an enlarged heart — because of where my imagination first led me.

Over the past many years, there have been so many incidents of elected officials at conferences getting into trouble and the endings aren't good. Was it some partying gone horribly wrong? That was my first reaction.

But it wasn't that at all. And the married father of two was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

His heart couldn't beat with him into what looked like a promising future. May he rest in peace.  

Losing our siblings

More than a decade ago, I reached the age where my peers started losing their parents. When the parental deaths started happening it seemed like a major watershed. Indeed, we were all getting older. Now, most of my friends in their 50s have lost parents, usually both. This weekend at dinner with friends, we talked about siblings because one friend lost his 69 year-old brother to cancer a few weeks ago. The conversation reminded me of several other sibling deaths among friends in the past year or so. Not a lot but enough to make me realize my peers and I are entering this new phase. The sibling loss phase.

A rose is a rose is a…?

In India unwanted girls know they are unwanted, because they are named “unwanted.” Now, an effort to change a negative self-image begins with a new name.

 A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a disproportionate gender ratio, more boys than girls.

The disproportion is due to the abortion of female fetuses or the profound neglect of girls, leading to their deaths. Boys will bring a dowry to a Hindi family, but girls are expensive - with that cost of a dowry.

Girls in the ceremony were happy with their new chosen names - such as Vaishali, which means prosperous, beautiful and good - and believe it will bring them the respect they deserve.

Safe or sorry: Libyans shooting in the air?

Watching the Libyans celebrate the death of Moammar Gadhafi Thursday by shooting their guns in the air made me cringe. I worried that innocent folks would be killed from those bullets raining down on the celebrants.

Turns out others worry, too. A Google search showed several bloggers wondering the same. And the show MythBusters studied the phenomenon in 2006 and concluded:

If a bullet is fired upward at a non-vertical angle… it will maintain its spin and will reach a high enough speed to be lethal on impact. Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most states, and even in the states that it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured. 

 (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

RIP: Marie Pizelo

Marie Pizelo, a woman who turned her childhood abuse into beautiful art and advocacy for women, died yesterday at Hospice House.

In my October 9 story  (and in Colin Mulvany's wonderful video) Marie passed on her words of wisdom to dozens of women who gathered in her honor at the Women's Hearth in downtown Spokane, where Marie volunteered for nearly 20 years.

She greeted women when they first came in the center. She remembered every name.

In life, she said, “We don’t give the simple acts enough credit.”

Marie knew that Theresa Lamkin, a sister from the St. Francis of Philadelphia community, was on her way. Sister Theresa, who now lives in Portland, knew Marie during her eight years in ministry at the Women's Hearth.

Sister Theresa arrived. Held and hugged her old friend. And a few minutes later, Marie passed on.

Do you think that dying people wait for certain people to arrive before they let go?

(Colin Mulvany S-R photo)

Thoughts of suicide high in Washington, Idaho

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a fascinating report today measuring suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adults older than 18 in the United States.

Residents of Idaho and Washington have among the highest percentages of “suicidal thoughts” but don't rank as alarmingly high in percentages of those who have actual plans or make actual attempts.

In 2008-2009, when the scientific surveys were taken, 6 percent of Idahoans, age 18 and older, reported suicidal thoughts; In Washington, it was 4.7 percent. The U.S. average is 3.7 percent.

Utah had the highest reported percentage of suicidal thoughts, at 6.8 percent. Georgia had the lowest percentage, at 2.1 percent.

The report is filled with alarming statistics

Suicidal thoughts are higher among females but they are no more likely as males to plan suicides or make attempts.  Read entire report  here.

And thanks to Dave Wasson, assistant city editor, for this suggestion to include in this blog post the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255.

Animals roaming: Life imitates art

People in Zanesville, Ohio are locked up today, in fear of exotic animals on the loose after an exotic animal preserve owner killed himself and then let the animals free. Lions, bears, mountain lions and more.

Kim Stanley Robinson, a science fiction writer, could tell you where this all might lead. In his book Forty Signs of Rain global warming has flooded Washington D.C. and the decision is made to let the National Zoo animals go free before they are drowned by the waters. So they let them out.

Tigers, polar bears, snakes, monkeys and more who all eventually escape and make homes for themselves in parks. When the rains stop, the animals remain part of the community, hidden most of the time, but always around in the destroyed parks as Robinson writes about in the second book in this trilogy Fifty Degress Below.

The animals fared much better than the humans in Robinson's books, but in Zanesville, I think the animals are getting the worst of it.

(S-R photo archives)


CDC’s flu forecast

Flu kills folks every year. From 3,000 in a “good” year to nearly 50,000 in a really bad year.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its FluView — a look at the season so far and the season ahead.

Some interesting highlights:

Flu activity so far is low.

There's plenty of vaccine this year. So no shortages expected.

And the flu vaccination, unlike in some years past, is well matched with the flu viruses circulating right now.

One more interesting detail: It takes about two weeks after a flu shot for the body's immune response to fully kick in.

Protests 100 years from now

While watching the Prohibition series on PBS recently, I was struck with how passionate people were on the issue — the wets and the drys. There were protests in the streets and people pouring out liquor on the streets and women doing sit-ins at bars.

I thought, as I often do when watching history, “All the people in those prohibition protests are dead.”

It's not as depressing of a thought as it sounds. It puts things in perspective. We are all just flowing through history and most of what we get worked up about solves itself in time.

What is your biggest worry today? In 100 years, the person sitting where you are sitting (if the building or house you're sitting in still exists) will have a big worry about something but yours will no longer matter.

Look at the faces in this Occupy Wall Street photo taken by my husband in New York last week. (Notice the asshole countersign to the Zionist sign.) In 100 years, all those folks will be gone. But what will happen with their causes? Will they change history? We won't be around to find out.

Humbling yet gratifying, too.

(Tony Wadden photo)

9/11 memorial reflections: Part 2

While walking the streets around the 9/11 memorial last week in New York, we had an appreciation of how tightly packed in the buildings are there. In the video footage of 9/11, it seems like people had wider streets and plenty of sidewalks to run away from the collapsing towers.

But the space is tiny, tiny and packed with buildings and as we walked, we tried to imagine how we could ever run away from a building above that was collapsing. The memorial, as our New York architect nephew pointed out, opened up space in the crowded downtown Manhattan area that can never be filled in again. There are trees and the amazing pools and waterfalls and benches to sit upon.

But all around the memorial, new construction is going up. It will close in the area once more, but never in the same way again.

(Tony Wadden photo)

9/11 memorial reflections: Part 1

My husband and I were lucky to reserve tickets for the 9/11 memorial site and we visited it last week while on vacation in New York City.

You need to secure tickets in advance (no cost but donations encouraged) and I hear the site is booked for months ahead now.

It's nearly impossible to put into words how the memorial “feels” but here are a few inadequate observations.

1) When you get out of the subway nearest the memorial, you see a small, painted sign that says “9/11 memorial” and an arrow to the right exit. I started crying upon seeing the subway sign, and I don't cry easily.

2) The memorial's main feature consists of two waterfall pools in the footprints of the towers that came down. Each waterfall leads to a pool that is so deep you never see where the water ends. The waterfalls and pools are so vast and impressive that they look like special effects from a dark movie. They are surreal in the best sense of the world.

3) All the names of the victims are etched in stone surrounding the waterfalls. Eleven of the women who died on 9/11 were pregnant and after their names is written: “And her unborn child.”

4) It is a somber, serious place and so it seemed so weird that some tourists were snapping happy pictures of themselves, smiling and laughing. I couldn't stop the tears. The memorial in no way brings out happy smiles, in my opinion.

5) It's perfect and beautiful, in my opinion.

6) More to come.

(Photo by Tony Wadden)

Crunch those leaves

Becky's story today reminds readers of what has endured in the Inland Northwest over the last several decades: marching bands as football teams rally for a field goal; men setting out in early morning to hunt for the prized deer and quiet lakes serving as oases for visitors' deep thoughts.  Our traditions carry us through time as the economy challenges, children grow and leave, the e-world simultaneously connects and separates us from each other.

 Autumn is a good time to pause and grab a snapshot for the future; those changing leaves with blinding colors call us to slow down and savor what is good, a happiness boost for sure.

 What do you love best about the fall season?

(Photo from King Collection, Spokesman-Review archives)

Friendship, now, forever

My good friend would be 76 -years -old today; she died last year. Yet, we will remember and celebrate her life today.  Her humor and grace remain. And, oh, those stories!

 When I brought my fiancé to meet her, she gushed over him with oozing charm and then with a straight face said, “Oh, Cathy, he's not as homely as you said he was!”  Fortunately, my man knew she was kidding. We once “upgraded” the artwork in our boss's office with paint-by-number Jesus art and hideous knitted decor  ..Mostly, when I needed comfort, she showed up: I was experiencing a complicated miscarriage and she came and sat with me…when my husband was recovering from cancer surgery, she braved a violent thunderstorm, and sat with us in our power-is-out, cold-in-here  house, and when my dad died, she flew across the country to attend his funeral service.

 She suffered from debilitating arthritis, but her own pain did not stop her from showing up, staying close when other people were suffering and needed her.  I miss her in the moments of my life - when I hear a good joke, when I hear someone in pain, when I simply want to relax in the comfort of a knowing friend.

 Today, I will pray at Mass in thanksgiving for our friendship and her gifts that remain. And share breakfast with her family. And know that her soulful presence fills our hearts, always.

 How do you remember loved ones after they are gone?

Ca$hing it all in

In these cash-strapped times, some Washington residents are cashing in on their future residence: their burial plots. Depending on one's future “neighborhood,” owners can sell their sites for thousands of dollars.

However, like all real estate situations, well-heeled buyers are few and more people than ever are planning on cheaper final farewell ceremonies - such as cremation.

Battling a disease…and disordered insurers

A recent New York Times story reports the battle that people who suffer with eating disorders are fighting: insurance company wars. 

 I was stunned to read the following:

  “An estimated 11 million Americans, mostly young women, suffer from eating disorders…These disorders, particularly anorexia, have the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric disorder.”

 The highest fatality rate of any psychiatric disorder and residential treatment coverage is often denied?

 I have a friend - a lovely 24-year-old woman - who has struggled with this disease. Last year she received care at a residential treatment center for eating disorders; this center addresses the psychological, medical, nutritional, spiritual, and relational needs of their clients. She stayed longer than she initially thought she would. She returned home strong, confident and understanding herself and her needs. The care she received tended to her body, but also her wounded spirit. Today, I listen to her courage, her humor and the joy in her life as she achieves her goals, sets needed boundaries with others and cares for herself. The path can be difficult, but she has the strength and support now to travel that road. She is so worthy of a healthy life.

 In healthcare we proclaim that we care for “the whole person.” It is time that insurance companies understand that human persons are integrated, complex beings; insurers must listen to the voices who know best: the patients themselves.

Kinda corny

The couple who took their 3-week-old baby on a little journey through a corn maze - and stayed lost - have attained national attention. The couple ended up calling 911 to be rescued. But their brief maze in the maize gave radio talk shows a good amount of fodder for conversation. “That woman just needed to get out of the house and her husband probably said, 'Let's go the corn maze for fun.' ”  

Confession: I once got lost in a hay maze - a relatively tiny maze - and ended up calling for help. A woman appeared overhead on a catwalk and simply gave instructions  to the exit. “Happens once a day,” she told us.

Question: How long do you wait to ask for help? Any help?

Doctor shares cancer wisdom

Our EndNotes column alternates on Tuesdays in the S-R with Dr. Alisa Hideg, a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Riverfront Medical Center. In this week's column, Dr. Hideg tells readers of her breast cancer diagnosis and debuts her bald look - a result of chemotherapy treatment. She promises to tell us more in the weeks ahead.

Hideg's common sense advice and insights into a cancer diagnosis will bring comfort and wisdom.  Eating good, nourishing foods helps one to recover strength and maintain focus. Exercise keeps one's body strong and releases tension and anxiety that make their home in a patient's life.  Asking for what one needs and indulging in simple pleasure bring laughter and fun.

 How do I know that Dr. Hideg's advice is good advice? I am a breast cancer survivor…Seven years ago I spent my summer with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. I am grateful for amazing docs and faithful friends.

 Alisa, my thoughts and prayers are with you during this journey.

To learn more about breast cancer resources, go to

Rosellini: former governor dies at 101

Albert D. Rosellini, who served as Washington's governor from 1957 to 1965, died Monday in Seattle after complications of pneumonia. He had turned 101 in January.

 “He was a trusted mentor and beloved friend, and the countless lives he touched, including mine, may be his greatest legacy,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement. Gregoire ordered state flags lowered to half-staff in his memory.

Gov. Rosellini remained active even as he neared the century mark, driving around town to political and social events in his white Cadillac with the license plate “GOV ADR.”

Until age 99, he still showed up every day at his Georgetown office filled with political mementos and photographs. Friends marveled at his mental sharpness even at an advanced age.

“He was a living history book,” former Gov. Mike Lowry said. “It was better than any oral history.”

What are your memories of this remarkable leader?

Looking at 60: Leap years

Our class reunion – minus Becky – called a group of us to California where we laughed, reminisced, and discussed what middle-age people discuss: jobs, kids, lovely grandkids and a few aches and pains: “What do you take for your blood pressure? “ I overheard.  But we slipped back in time, too, recalling lovely moments. “Cathy, remember when we went walking way behind the Pitti Palace?…and the Dobermans came charging at us?!” he asked. I remember and remind him how I threw him in front of me. “Because you are tall and I knew you could protect me!”  He smirks.

Now home, the reviews of our weekend are connecting us via cyberspace; comments include: “When we were in Florence, we had such confidence to do all sorts of things, and getting together every 5 years reminds us and inspires us with that confidence again.” 

At our next reunion, we will be in our sixties, talking retirement, social security, family and always ancient Florence fun.

Even now, 60 seems a tad “old” requiring a leap to a new phase of life.

But with these amazing human beings, I will gladly make the leap - knowing they are the best social security.

End the Fed

In Chicago today and just walked by the Occupy Wall Street protests in the city’s financial district. There are at least 100 protestors, many dressed in business clothes, a huge drum that several beat, police and bystanders everywhere. It has the feel of a true movement. Could it be the sign of real change coming? It had a certain 1960s protest energy. My favorite sign: We are the 99 percent. And unlike Spokane’s small protest, this Chicago protest looks like the 99 percent who do not hold the nation’s wealth were well represented.

Figuring out what matters

Cathy and I talked by phone today. She's in California at a reunion of our GU in Florence class. I couldn't go this year because of a family commitment that's important to me.

Our GU class reunites every five years and I call the experience a “community across time.” The 1975-1976 year in Florence was so intense. For many of us, it was the first time out of the country. We were “half-formed human beings” as my buddy Dan Webster says of 20something young people.

So when we meet up again, we have great talks, great laughs and it's nourishing at a cellular, soul level.

Cathy and I both had hectic work weeks leading up to this weekend. But we decided it's worth it to make time in your life for things like this — reunions and family events. Because in the end, that's what matters most.

Va bene.

Lots of life in 56 years

Steve Jobs, Apple guru, was 56 when he died. Cathy and I are both 56. When people your same age die, no matter your age, it almost always brings up issues of mortality. Jobs, along with Bill gates of Microsoft, are the Thomas Edisons of our time, changing the way we communicate forever. This is the first blog post written on my new iPad. Thanks Steve Jobs for inventing it.

Good quote with the word “die” in it

Roger Ailes, creator of Fox News, looked back on the cable channel's 15-year success in a recent interview.

Here's my favorite line from the 71-year-old Ailes:

“I just went to my doctor and he said, 'Other than arthritis, your chart reads like a 40-year-old's. You're old, you're fat and you're ugly, but you're not going to die from any of those things immediately.''

(Spokesman-Review archive photo)

Goodbye Mr. Spock

Leonard Nimoy, who played the emotion-less alien, Mr. Spock, in Star Trek has annouced his retirement from the Star Trek convention circuit.

I've been a big “Star Trek” fan since seventh grade when the original series came out, despite my sister telling me a few years ago that she read that “Star Trek” fans suffer from depression.

Anyway, Nimoy, who is 80, will be missed. The stories written about his retirement don't mention a reason. Maybe he just burned out. I think we all have to, or want to, give up regular parts of our routines as we age. My husband, a golf champ in high school, quit golfing in his 40s because he said he knew he was losing the touch and the desire to play.

No shame in giving up.

So what did have you given up as you age?

(AP file photo. Spock has the big ears)

112 million drunks on the road

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports today that adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010.

That's 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day.

That means, according to CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden that, “nearly 11,000 people are killed every year in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.” 

  • Men were responsible for 81 percent of drinking and driving in 2010.
  • Young men, ages 21-34, made up only 11 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, yet were responsible for 32 percent of all episodes of drinking and driving.
  •  Eighty-five percent of drinking and driving episodes were reported by people who also reported binge drinking. Binge drinking means five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women during a short period of time.

Bottom line: If you've had a few too many, or your friend has, stay out of the car and get the friend out of the car. Lives, literally, will be spared.

Welcome home, Amanda

 After four years in prison, Amanda Knox is coming home after her conviction was overturned today on an appeal.

 Our blog and EndNotes column deal with grief, loss, illness and suffering. Amanda has suffered through all of these life experiences - while locked up for a crime she did not commit in a country where she did not initially speak the language.

 May her return to home be filled with healing and recovery of an innocence lost and time to pursue what every 24-year-old deserves to pursue: her dreams.

 Sweet dreams, Amanda. Your courage, we witnessed from afar, has been remarkable; your family's determination and support, beyond inspiring. May the days ahead be filled with joyful reunions, sweet grass beneath your toes and peace. Seattle welcomes you home.

(AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

Today: B12 in, aspirin out

Each morning, my email is filled with press releases and stories from medical, elderly and death and dying sources, because of this blog.

Many of the medical websites offer summaries of research on how to keep healthier, longer. But it can drive you crazy figuring out what's good, what's bad, what's in, what's out.

Today on MedlinePlus, Vitamin B12 is hot. If you have a lot, your brain looks bigger and better. Not so much? People who had signs of B12 deficiency had lower scores on their tests, and also had a smaller brain volume. According to one of the researchers, these findings support the idea that low B12 could put people at risk for brain shrinkage and difficulty thinking.

Aspirin is on the bad list today. Seniors who take aspirin daily are twice as likely to have late stage macular degeneration, an age-related loss of vision, than people who never take the pain reliever, a new European study reports. The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, included Norwegian, Estonian, British, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish seniors.

Who and what do you believe?

Cell phone magic

When 67-year-old David Lavau drove away from home, he had his cell phone turned on, a decision that saved his life. After missing for six days, his children, relentless in their effort to find their missing father, followed information that a sheriff's detective provided: the records of the cell phone's location. That  detail gave Lavau's children a general area to look, but it was a large and remote mountain area with canyons and ravines that could barely be seen from the road.

They persevered and found their dad within hours.

So, take that cell phone whenever you leave home; that doesn't mean “dialing” while driving is a good idea, but simply having it in the car, turned on, transforms the little modern convenience into a  potential lifeline.

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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