Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Blast From the Past

What better way to end the year than with a blast from the past?

I checked my PO Box yesterday and found an order for Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love. It was obviously from the ad that ran in Rural Missouri in 2007 when the book first came out. It happens occasionally. Someone is browsing through their old copies, come across the ad, and order a book.

This afternoon, I went into Facebook and saw where someone posted a note on a vote for my blog in Healthline’s contest, “Did you see the ad for Linda’s book in Rural Missouri?”  What? I had just gotten my Rural Missouri today. I pulled it out, leafed through it and there was the ad. Looks just as good as it did when the book was hot off the press.

The story of the anthology is a story in itself. I had never published a book before, but after joining the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild, I learned a lot about self publishing. I married that with my fundraising experience and came up with the idea to get sponsors, publish a book of Alzheimer’s stories, and give the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. I pitched the idea to the staff at the Mid-Missouri Chapter office and they didn’t think I was crazy, so I proceeded.

One small problem to overcome. How could I get the stories? I sent emails to all my Alzheimer’s contacts, posted on message boards, and spread the word. Then, Jim McCarty of Rural Missouri asked me to write an op-ed about Alzheimer’s and the anthology. Once it was published, the stories came pouring in. The Chapter made the selections, and I began to build a book of compelling slice-of-life stories about our friends and neighbors who met Alzheimer’s up close and personal. These were the stories of caregivers’ unconditional love and the courage of those diagnosed with the disease.

Sandy Jaffe, the owner of BookSource and an Alzheimer’s advocate I met at the Alzheimer’s Forum in Washington, D.C., offered his expertise. He became my hero in this story. He hired a cover designer, found a distributor, and a printer. He called in favors and the book was published at no personal cost for me or the Alzheimer’s Association. Proceeds would be pure profit. Before long, we sold the first 1,000 copies and began the process for the second printing.

Just when I thought the books were about all gone, Sandy found some in his warehouse and sent them to me. So, luckily, I have plenty of books to fill any orders the ad might generate.

By the way, if you don’t get the Rural Missouri and would like to order a copy of Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love: The 110,000 Missourians with Alzheimer’s the information is on my Website at www.lsfisher.com, or you can send $10 + $2.50 shipping to me at PO Box 1746, Sedalia MO 65302. Please make your checks payable to Alzheimer’s Association.

Maybe the blast-from-the-past ad will bring in some funds for the Alzheimer’s Association to help them further their mission. As we leave the past behind and move on to a New Year, let’s each of us resolve to do our part to make this a better world for those who have dementia.

How can you join the fight against Alzheimer’s?  Lace up your shoes and participate in a Walk to End Alzheimer’s next fall, visit a loved one with the disease, help a caregiver, write your senators and representatives about Alzheimer’s research funding, or make a donation to your local Alzheimer’s Chapter. If each of us takes one small step, we can circle the globe with love for those with the disease and create hope for a world without Alzheimer’s.

copyright © December 2013 by L. S. Fisher

Sunday, December 22, 2013

’Tis the Season

’Tis the season to be _______. How would you fill in that blank? Of course, you may have the Fa, La, La, La song to convince you the word has to be “jolly.” The problem with Christmas and Jolly are they don’t always go together.

By its very nature, Christmas is a time of nostalgia, and folks, I’m here to tell you that nostalgia can be a dangerous, depressing emotion. If you have happy memories, you are sad because the past was happier than the present. If you have sad memories, you can become downhearted from thinking about it. It’s easily a lose, lose situation.

It’s also the season for stress on steroids. People are stressed about everything during the holidays second guessing themselves. Did I spend too much? Did I spend too little? Did I buy the right size? Will he hate it? OMG, hope she put a gift receipt in here so I can take this back.

And how many times have I pulled out the wrapping paper, scissors, bows, ribbons, and ho-ho-ho not a piece of tape in the house. Maybe I could hold this sucker together with all those address labels that every charitable organization in the United States sends me. A word from the wise—don’t do it!

Don’t forget all the Christmas events that may or may not be cancelled. The weather is always dicey this time of year. The Christmas parade was tossed forward from week to week until we ran out of weeks. I remember the years I worked on Christmas floats for Alzheimer’s and then later for my women’s group. It seems that I’ve always been fortunate enough to work in an unheated miserably cold building. I can’t even imagine the frustration of going through all that work just to have the weather throw a hissy fit every weekend in December.

Nothing says holiday season like hazardous roadways. Throw in a little freezing rain and a half foot of snow and it is a fool’s errand to rush around trying to buy those last minute presents. Then, I can’t help but ask myself—did I, or did I not, buy something at Target when I was in there a few weeks ago? I hardly ever shop at Target, but there I was…just at the perfect time for the credit/debit card bandits to strike.

It’s really a lot easier to enjoy Christmas when you reduce the pressure. I’ve tried to get my shopping list pared down to the bare bones. Just buying for the sake of buying isn’t my idea of fun. And those long lines snaking around the buildings while the wind chill is 40 below…no way! On Thanksgiving Day, no less. Black Friday was seriously anti-climatic after all the stores decided to skip being thankful for pushing the bargains. That darn Christmas stuff was out before Halloween. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Labor Day sales next year are the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season. Why not just move it up to Independence Day? Firecrackers and tinsel. They do kind of go together, don’t you think?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not down on Christmas; it just doesn’t always seem to be the magical time of year for me. Oh, I enjoy Christmas lights and Christmas carols just as much as the next person. I’ve become a Hallmark Christmas Movie addict. The thing I love most is having my family over for our annual Christmas get-together. It’s a laid back, no pressure, big pot of chili good time. The reason I enjoy Christmas is because I have no expectations, I refuse to wax nostalgic, and I celebrate it without fanfare.   

The one thing I don’t care about is all that pressure to be, you guessed it, jolly. I’ll be happy because I choose to hold that emotion in my heart whether it’s Christmas or any of the other 364 days of the year. I’m a happy person. Jolly? Not so much.

copyright © December 2013 by L. S. Fisher

Monday, December 16, 2013

A New Chapter

Some people embrace change while others participate after they’re pulled into it kicking and screaming. I’m not sure that I fit totally into either category; I just know that the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. Okay, so I may have borrowed that expression from a country song, but darn it, I’m sure I’d have thought of it eventually.

My life is about to change dramatically. After thirty-three years of driving to Central Missouri Electric each day to report to work, I’m embarking on that long-sought-after, scary, wildly dramatic change called “retirement.” It’s what I’ve worked and saved for throughout my career.

Most of my waking hours have been spent inside the doors of that building sitting in front of a computer monitor. Some days were more challenging that others, but my work career was one filled with learning new skills. I’ve done everything from data entry to management and had a rare opportunity to see the Coop move from a manual system into the world of computers.

Our computer programs were on an IBM System 34 and did not have such luxuries as word processing. Before we had PC’s in the office, I typed the board minutes on a typewriter, and suffered through the frustration of having to retype an entire page if I left out a word. I’ll admit, I hated to give up the Smart System for Word Perfect, then later to “downgrade” to Word. After seeing those gigantic columnar ledgers that Ann Richards and Grace Arbuckle used, it gave me a much greater respect for spreadsheets.

I saw a lot of changes during my years at the Coop, and in retrospect, I’ll admit that most of them were for the better. Changes in my job kept it from ever becoming stale or boring. Even the people changed. I went from being the newbie, the first office employee to be hired in seven years, to being the person who had worked at the Coop the longest. That means I was working with a different set of people than those who were there when I first began.

There wasn’t a lot of turnover and most of us worked together for several years. Co-workers became family—some are like brothers and sisters, others are like crazy aunts or uncles, or distant cousins.  Just like family, you learn their quirks and learn to accept that as a part of the person, or better yet find humor in individual personalities.

At the employee/Christmas dinner, Kathy Page said I was getting ready to start a new chapter. For an avid reader and dedicated writer, that’s the perfect description for how I feel about retirement—a new chapter in a good book—one that keeps me turning the pages. It’s a book I don’t want to put down, I find it intriguing, mysterious, suspenseful and I keep flipping pages wanting to know what’s going to happen yet. My mind is rife with anticipation, excitement, and plans for what will happen next. My life’s book is filled with rich characters who move in and out of the pages, imprinting their images on my heart, filling my days with love and laughter.

Just like a good book, my life has been a quest, and a journey, into the unknown to conquer all kinds of evil and overcome failures. Like all good stories, the protagonist in my story (me) is flawed, makes mistakes, passes up opportunities, often misses the mark, but still manages to overcome those itty bitty character flaws to be triumphant in a small way.

Is this going to be a new chapter, or an entirely new book? It seems that retirement is in a way a happy conclusion to one book, and time to begin a new one. Oh, sure it’s going to be a series with many of the same characters, but a new set of adventures. Keep reading, because this new book promises to take a few strange twists and pack some surprises along the way.

Copyright © 2013 by L. S. Fisher

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rock the Cradle—and Check for Alzheimer’s

When we hold a newborn baby in our arms, we look into his or her eyes and wonder what kind of life is ahead for this new being. Our job as parents is to protect our children and keep them from harm. We shower them with love and envision how their future can reach greater heights than we ever did.

We worry about the little things—stomach aches that make the baby uncomfortable and makes him cry. We may worry about childhood diseases and make appointments for immunizations.

Unless a family has a serious inherited genetic disease, most parents don’t worry about what diseases their newborn might face later in life. Now, a new study may add to the list of new parental worries. Researchers have been looking for Alzheimer’s in the most unlikely place—in the brains of infants.

The tests on 62 infants aged 2-22 months began with a DNA test to determine which ones had the gene variant APOE-E4, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty of the infants had the gene variant. MRI scans were used to measure activity in the infants’ brains to compare the infants without the variation to the ones with it.

Oddly enough, differences were observed in the brain scans of the infants. The infants with the APOE-E4 variant had an increased brain growth in the frontal part of the brain with less growth in the middle and back parts of the brain. This is similar to the brain activity in adults who have Alzheimer’s disease.

The type and number of copies a person has of the APOE (apolipoprotein E) allele is associated with the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s. The APOE gene has several functions, including carrying blood cholesterol through the body. APOE is found in neurons and brain cells in healthy brains and in plaques in the Alzheimer’s brain. Three common alleles are E2, E3, and E4. E2 is thought to protect from Alzheimer’s, E3 (the most common) is thought to be neutral, and E4 is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. People with two E4 alleles, have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but may not develop the disease, just as people without any of the E4 variant may develop the disease.

The good news is that although these infants have the APOE-E4 variant, it doesn’t mean they will grow up to develop Alzheimer’s late in life. Even better, the infants with the variant didn’t show any developmental delays.

The study was intended to increase understanding of how the gene influences brain development. Sean Deoni, Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab, said, “These results do not establish a direct link to the changes seen in Alzheimer’s patients, but with more research they may tell us something about how the gene contributes to Alzheimer’s risk later in life.”

The studies on infants is interesting and may be a piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out the genetic influence on Alzheimer’s. Just like any disease influenced by genetics, environment may be the key to provide an override of the gene pool and remaining healthy. Research shows that physical activity and good nutrition with healthy food choices can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Social interactions, puzzles and brain teasers are ways to keep your brain active.

Our children complete the circle of life. We hope they inherit our good traits and healthy genes and the risk-carrying genes are allowed to sink into infinity. When we rock the cradle, we need to worry less about genetic predispositions and concentrate on raising our children in a healthy environment.

Copyright (c) L. S. Fisher, December 2013