Saturday, May 31, 2014

Do you remember that time....


How many times I have said that to one or both of my sisters over the years. One thing you can be sure of is that no two people will have the same memory of an event they shared.

Here is my memory of an event I shared with my sister, I asked her to send me her memory of the same occasion. I wrote my section below before I received her account to ensure that I didn't allow her account to influence my own.

I do not remember when this occurred, I remember it was summer time, and probably late 1970s or early 1980s.

We headed off in the early evening, my sister and I, I want to say our appointment was for 6 p.m. but I am definitely not sure about that. We were heading to Naas, Co. Kildare to attend a group hypnosis session for weight control. We had high hopes that this would prove to be the magic answer to our weight problems. With that hope in mind we stopped to fill up with gas and bought a couple of chocolate bars each as it would be our last chance to indulge because once we were hypnotized we wouldn't eat chocolate anymore. What is particularly ridiculous to me even now, is that I was determined that I would not succumb to any form of hypnosis, the idea of have my awareness removed was not something that appealed to me.

The hypnotist in question was an elderly surgeon. The session was held in his home, his home was actually a castle, a small castle but a castle nonetheless. I do not remember if there were any men in the group, and I don't remember how many of us where there, but I think at least 10.

We sat in the doctor's living room and spoke in turn about where we believed our weaknesses resulting in overeating were. I do remember one woman who bought her children's school snacks on a weekly basis, and then devoured them all herself and had to buy more. After each person spoke, the doctor suggested a way to avoid these occasions of temptation. For many of the people there the issue was not wanting to waste food and so they ate it, hungry or not, and also cleared their children's plates too. When everyone had confessed their weakness he started his hypnosis. I no longer remember much of what he said, but I do remember him saying  that it was as much a waste to eat food when you are not hungry as it is to throw it away, it was being wasted either way.

Then it was over, I had not been hypnotized and my sister was fairly sure she had not either. The proof was in the fact that we neither of us noticed any change in our eating habits nor in our weight.

My thanks to my sister for sending me her recollection of visitng the hypnotist:
I wasn’t fat, just more overweight than I was comfortable with.  My friend, Ann who worked in the shop below mine in the centre, was well ahead of me in the fat stakes and we both decided to do something about it.  I can’t remember where we heard about the hypnotist but he was well known and respected.  He was a medical doctor – surgeon in fact and he had a reputation for stopping people smoking as if by magic.  We thought if he was that good it might work for weight loss.  Dieting had been tried and failed and besides being hypnotised took the responsibility off our shoulders.
The appointment was made and we were both really excited about the possibility of freedom from fat.  This doctor had actually operated using only hypnosis as an anaesthetic; that was impressive. Ann drove because I didn’t have a car and the hypnotist lived in the next county.  On the way there we stopped off at a shop and bought large bars of chocolate as a sort of ‘last meal’ which felt really good.  We had done the same thing when we went to Weight Watchers together – the other way around though – we went for pizza after the weigh in.
The hypnotist saw us in his house which was a big old rambling country house, set well back from the road.  I remember coming through a room at the back of the house that was especially for taking your boots off when you came in with muddy boots – a mud room?  It had a lovely old wooden bench and lots beautiful antique things. It set the scene.
An old man, spare and fine featured he brought us up to his sitting room.  High ceilinged and comfortably furnished.  It is such a long time ago that some of the details have gone a bit fluffy.  I do know he explained the process and how we would not be asleep but in a relaxed and receptive state and that he would make suggestions to each of us in turn, which he would tape so that we would listen to the tapes over the coming weeks to establish them firmly.  I was a bit disappointed because I couldn’t see how that would work.  I wanted the dramatic hypnosis that you see on television when people do things they would not normally do and not remember them.
We each had our session separately.  I was aware of everything he was saying and thought, well if he as good as his reputation it must work.  I remember one of the things he said – if a baby has enough to eat it will stop and even if you spoon more food into its mouth it will just spit it back.  That brought to mind disgusting images of the babies in the family being fed by a nanny and the spit-out food being spooned in again.  I wondered how that would work for me.
I listened to the tapes and his voice told me that I would feel satisfied with less food. Sadly I wasn’t and neither was Ann; we continued to go for a Chinese meal and lots of wine at the end of the week. I still believe hypnosis works but perhaps not for eating.  When you give up smoking you don’t smoke again.  If you were to do that with food you would die.  Perhaps that’s why it didn’t work. I did once or twice when were at the Chinese restaurant imagine Ann climbing on her chair like a baby and spitting food down her chin!
I had forgotten completely about the tape, and yes we did get one. I don't know if my sister mixed up both visits or if she did the chocolate bar trick both times. I don't remember being aware she had been before. 

One thing I must say is that I while didn't remember Dr Gibson's name - I did remember he lived in a castle and that he was a doctor. I also remember exactly what he looked like. When I googled hypnotists in Kildare I found this:
Jack Gibson
April 2nd 2005 – Dr. Jack Gibson, of St. David's Castle, Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland, peacefully passed away at Naas Hospital, where he was once County Surgeon. In his 96th. year, Dr. Jack, predeceased by his loving wife Elizabeth and daughter Rosemary; deeply missed by his grandchildren Tamsin and Jason, son-in-law Andrew, relatives, long serving Patrick and Pauline, colleagues, friends and patients, some of whom he was treating until the end of his remarkable life.
The photo of Dr Gibson confirmed that my memory of how he looked was exactly right.

The exercise in comparing my sister's recall of the event with my own led me to do some more googling on the subject. Here is some of what I turned up.

This definition of Episodic Memory most closely relates to what I was trying to display above:
Episodic memory is a category of long-term memory that involves the recollection of specific events, situations and experiences. Your first day of school, your first kiss, attending a friend's birthday party and your brother's graduation are all examples of episodic memories. In addition to your overall recall of the event itself, it also involves your memory of the location and time that the event occurred. Closely related to this is what researchers refer to as autobiographical memory, or your memories of your own personal life history. As you can imagine, episodic and autobiographical memories play an important role in your self identity.
A number of types of memory retrieval were described here:
Recall: This type of memory retrieval involves being able to access the information without being cued. Answering a question on a fill-in-the-blank test is a good example of recall.
Recollection: This type of memory retrieval involves reconstructing memory, often utilizing logical structures, partial memories, narratives or clues. For example, writing an answer on an essay exam often involves remembering bits on information, and then restructuring the remaining information based on these partial memories.
Recognition: This type of memory retrieval involves identifying information after experiencing it again. For example, taking a multiple-choice quiz requires that you recognize the correct answer out of a group of available answers.
Relearning: This type of memory retrieval involves relearning information that has been previously learned. This often makes it easier to remember and retrieve information in the future and can improve the strength of memories.
Finally, this article is very interesting:
False memory refers to cases in which people remember events differently from the way they happened or, in the most dramatic case, remember events that never happened at all. False memories can be very vivid and held with high confidence, and it can be difficult to convince someone that the memory in question is wrong. Psychologists have studied false memories in laboratory situations in which events are well controlled and it can be known exactly what transpired. Such experiments have uncovered a number of factors that are responsible for creating false memories. ...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Being a morning person

...definitely has its advantages, I suppose I can say that because I am one, and I truly love the early morning when the house is quiet - everything is quiet. I have time to think, write and do whatever I want to.. except make noise. Now, I am not a noisy person by nature, but it is amazing how loud simple tasks sound at 4 a.m. in the morning.

I can do laundry because Larry sound proofed the laundry room down stairs, and my mother in law's bedroom (also downstairs) not because she makes noise I hasten to add - but because we don't want to disturb her with the sounds from the muffled laundry room.  We used these 'as seen on TV' things and they really do work.

Apart from washing and drying the clothes, I can also iron them without disturbing anyone. I can and do make phone calls to my family in Europe, they are 6 / 7 hours ahead of us, so 4 in the morning is 10 a.m. in Ireland and 11 a.m. in France, of course I do shut myself into the bedroom furthest from where my husband is sleeping and I keep my raucous laughter to a minimum - if you want to know about how much I cackle ask my daughter's ex-in-laws - they strongly disapprove of any form of levity, and they strongly disapprove of me period. I suppose I need to add here that I don't laugh raucously, nor cackle wildly when I am ironing, but I do when I am on the phone with family.

So, I avoid the more noisy activities, such as cleaning out my desk, strangely noisy at that hour, but unnoticeable during the day. And I don't use my embroidery machine - however I can work on my designs as the software makes no noise (at least I am fairly sure it is silent, but as I keep the speaker on my computer muted I can't swear to that).

I can also workout in those early hours - at least I will be able to once again as soon as my foot heals from the last surgery. We have the workout room soundproofed too and I have a TV in there which apparently doesn't disturb the household when the door is closed.

I am very fortunate that I work for a company where I can pretty much choose my own hours, and because we have a business that is 24 / 7, it is actually beneficial to the company that I choose to start at 4.30 in the morning. This has the extra benefit of allowing me to leave early also.

The disadvantage is that I am frequently asleep before the sun goes down. In the summer I do miss many sunsets, but I never miss a sunrise.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Grocery Shopping

I dislike shopping period, or perhaps I dislike shops, because shopping online is definitely not unpleasant. Of all the stores I dislike shopping in grocery stores have to be about the worst.

To start off, it is akin to washing dishes, you are never done with it. Then there is the grocery cart (a.k.a for my European readers, trolley)! They are usually sticky from the last child who sat and dribbled candy or cookie all over the handles, and unless they are brand new, they will have either a wobbly wheel or at least one wheel that doesn't work or wants to go in a different direction than the others.

Here in the US, the carts are huge! or is that just in Texas? I am barely over five foot tall and I have to reach up to hold the sticky handle to push the cart. Fortunately our local supermarket does supply sanitizing wipes at the entrance to wipe down the cart, and frequently the container of wipes is not empty.

We have made a ritual out of our grocery shopping. Every Saturday morning, we first have breakfast at one of our favorite Mexican breakfast restaurants, actually, they serve lunch and dinner too and we often have dinner there, but we love their breakfast and they are five minutes from our local grocery store. Grocery shopping for us is almost like a military operation - actually compared to some more recent military operations, it is probably a whole lot more efficient.

Larry found an app that works very well for us, since then there a lot more similar apps have appeared, but we stick to our first choice,

We can add items to our list online, from our computers, or from our phones. The app allows us to categorize items into a logical order and I have also added recipes and, at a click of a button, I can add all the necessary ingredients for that recipe to my shopping list.

When we first got the app I took photos of the signs over each aisle in the supermarket, so that I could organize the categories in the comfort of my home. I numbered each category in logical sequence, and now, so long as they don't reorganize their shelves, which of course they do from time to time, we can fly through the list skipping the aisles we don't need to look at, and checking items off our list in order.

I push the cart ( though when I had my foot surgery last year I got to try out their electric fat lady carts ) and Larry mans the list on the phone.

We can frequently have breakfast, complete the weekly grocery shopping and be home in less than 90 minutes. That really does reduce the pain. I am not sure that I want to shop for groceries online, but I think I could be convinced, as soon as Amazon decide to support that service in Austin, TX.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What is so difficult about booking vacation?

Maybe it isn't difficult for you, but I have a very hard time pulling the trigger on a vacation. That is, I find it difficult to settle on specific dates and then make them firm by booking flights. I am always afraid that perhaps I selected dates that would turn out to be inconvenient for those I am hoping to visit, or I will pick dates that coincide with air traffic control or flight crew strike, or hurricanes and goodness knows what other events that might delay or cancel my trip. Of course I do know that it is possible to change plans including flights, but not without a cost.

Most of my travel is international and therefore it is necessary for me to book well in advance in order to get the best price and choice of flights, but I agonize for days before I make my booking final, and I don't do that until I have checked with family and friends where ever I plan to visit to make sure they will be available.

This year my plan is to visit Ireland first, then from there fly to Paris and take a train to the west of France, returning to Texas from France with my two grandsons who will spend three weeks with us before they returned back to France.

I was delayed in making my reservations although I knew what dates I would be traveling and had double checked with family and friends and all was well there, but my delay was in waiting for my grandson's passports to be renewed. Finally that issue was resolved and what do you know! We discover that my daughter in law will be expecting her second child the week before I am due to arrive in Dublin!

Now, that could be perfect if she has the baby on time, except that I have always hesitated to turn up at the same time as a new born child, I mean, who wants their mother in law under foot when they are trying to adjust to childbirth and a new baby? And what if she is late and I just barely miss the event altogether?! These days I only travel to Ireland once a year as the cost and the effort are becoming too much for me - plus I will have used up almost all my vacation time for the year and so will have to wait almost a full year before I meet my new grandchild! However, that trip is in the can and it is just a matter of trusting the universe. (See this post for my thoughts on that).

So, with the major trip organized I started to think about my minor trip, minor only because it is a domestic flight (to visit my son and his wife and their son in Seattle, WA.) And so I checked the possible dates with them, they were sure that the date range I suggested would work, and then I worried over how many days, which days to travel, luckily I didn't have to worry about which flights as there is only one direct flight per day from Austin to Seattle, and only one coming back again. Direct flights are the least stressful, no matter what time they are. With only one flight the possibility of lost luggage is minimized and there is no connection to miss, and just one flight to be on time for. (See post here for more on the things I stress about when I get over the hump of actually booking my flights).

Why is it so difficult for me to commit I wonder. How big a mistake can one day sooner or later be? In fact, so far, in the almost 20 years since I moved to the US, my trips have been extremely successful... ah, but perhaps that is because I take so much care in selecting the dates?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

fear, phobia or just disgust?

What is specific phobia?
Specific phobia is characterized by extreme fear of an object or situation that is not harmful under general conditions.

Examples may include a fear of the following:

Closed-in places / small spaces

I love flying, dogs, cats and birds. I find clowns very boring - in fact I have disliked circuses for as long as I can remember. Tunnels and closed in spaces do not bother me, I don't do well with heights if they are open, that is on the edge of a cliff, or high up in an open space. A high window or an air plane doesn't bother me at all. I do hate insects and spiders. and I am genuinely afraid of water, I have had so many swimming lessons in my life and have only succeeded in learning to swim for long enough to make drowning take a little longer and prolong the agony.

When I was 18, and still having swimming lessons, I arrived at the pool and as I walked passed the deepest end, heading to the shallow end for my lesson, I was pushed into the pool by some young boy who clearly thought that was amusing. I never forgot the feeling of going down for what seemed like forever, and having the greatest difficulty getting back up to the surface. I didn't panic, but when I eventually broke the surface I saw the life guard about to dive in after me, he was beginning to panic at how long it was taking me to come back up. I continued with my swimming lesson that day, and then didn't get into water other than a shower or bathtub for another 11 years, when I finally did try to learn to swim again I mastered a width of the pool and felt that was sufficient as I got absolutely no enjoyment from being in the water.

While I have always hated spiders, and I really dislike most insects. I can remember playing with woodlice when I was a child (also known as pill bugs or roly polly bugs) and there are some bugs that I do have more tolerance for, but NOT inside my home. I love snakes, but naturally I have a healthy respect for them as I do know many can be extremely dangerous. And, while I hate spiders I find tarantulas absolutely fascinating, again - not inside my home. I do believe that all creatures have a purpose and I do try not to kill them, certainly outside I ignore them and if they do stray inside I do my best to capture and release rather than kill, no matter how grossed out I might be.

I don't believe that I have a phobia, that is to say it is not so much a fear of insects or spiders, more that they positively disgust me. In fact, after some research on phobia, I suspect if I have one, it is a fear of being contaminated by insects. I consider them to be absolutely filthy, and I do have a (what I consider to be healthy) fear of dirt and germs. According to :  "... In many cases of entomophobia (fear of insects), the sufferer is afraid of becoming contaminated by insects. Many bugs, such as cockroaches and flies, do carry disease. However, people with contamination phobias take cleanliness to an extreme..."

mud dauper
I got to thinking about this because we recently had a flying creature invade our home. I am not sure if it was a wasp or a mud dauber - actually all the same family and almost identical in appearance. My husband was certain that I was afraid of being stung and went to great lengths to explain to me that it was a mud dauber and would not sting me.

Now, while I don't enjoy being stung, that really is the least of my worries. I would prefer to be stung than have the thing flying around me and bumping into things (me), but worse, landing on surfaces and possibly spreading disease. And my research tells me that while mud daupers rarely sting, they are actually the wasp family and are capable of stinging. But, as I said, that is not my prime concern.

It is very difficult for someone who doesn't have this reaction to understand it. Generally their first instinct is to make fun of the unfortunate person who is already feeling totally stressed out, no amount of rationalizing or teasing will help, and suggesting you 'snap out of it' is ludicrous, some even go so far as to antagonize and feed the stress, as once happened to my sister (who really does have a phobia) and myself when her husband (glad to say now her ex-husband) thought it funny to open the door of the room where we were busy sewing, and throw a handful of insects directly at us - I believe they were grasshoppers, but it didn't matter in the least what they were the reaction was absolute terror on our parts, and disgust, which quickly turned to fury. And I do believe that as a doctor, he should have known better.

However, back to the flying invader of my home and my comfort level - he/she disappeared, that is to say, was never spotted again that evening, and so was most likely still somewhere in my house and that thought grossed me out. I went to bed knowing the creature was somewhere in the house, woke up still fully aware it was likely to suddenly reappear. The next day, after some research I established that a wasp can live up to 40 days inside a house! I would be a nervous wreck if I had to keep a watch for it for 40 days - and clean every surface over and over again during that time. Luckily the following day, when I came home from work I noticed this on the floor in the living room:

Panic over.

Changing the world

Recently I was directed to an amazing, life changing commencement speech delivered by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, at the University-wide Commencement at The University of Texas at Austin on May 17. This admiral was in charge of the group that captured Bin Laden among other feats, see here

To read the full speech click here. Or better yet, watch and listen on You Tube here.

He used what he learnt during his basic SEAL training to come up with these lessons he imparted to the graduates, to see his full description of each lesson, follow one of the links above:
If you want to change the world:
  • start off by making your bed. 
  • find someone to help you paddle.
  • measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. 
  • get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
  • don’t be afraid of the circuses.
  • sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
  • don’t back down from the sharks.
  • you must be your very best in the darkest moment.
  • start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
  • don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
He summarized his talk with this:
Start each day with a task completed.
Find someone to help you through life.
Respect everyone.
Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks,
step up when the times are toughest,
face down the bullies,
lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up
—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.
Very impressive speaker and a life changing message.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More about embroidery

I haven't mentioned my continuing learning curve in the field of machine embroidery for some time. That does not mean I have not been climbing up and sliding back down. I spend much of my weekends working on my designs and while the majority of the time is spent either in the software creating designs, and most of the rest of the time in sewing out samples of each design, I have also managed to embroider a few t-shirts and three denim shirts.

Mildred wearing her denim shirt
Two of the denim shirts I gave to my mother in law, and didn't photograph them before, however I do have a couple of photos of her wearing one of them. I also gave her one t-shirt which I didn't get a photo of either. And one shirt I sent to my daughter before thinking of taking a photo.

I have many more designs waiting to be applied to t-shirts. Below are some of those I have completed.

closeup of the front, deep in the heart of texas and bluebonnets
close up of the back, cowboy boots and a cowgirl on a horse

This design I purchased and it was my first successful t-shirt

I created both of these designs

another of my own creations

This is the most complicated to sew, it is two of my own designs
as my hoop is only 4 x4 I had to sew each design separately.

notice a theme? I love motorbikes.

I purchased these designs

also purchased, part of a pack of eight 'Spirit Animals'

This unicorn I designed myself

and this one I also purchased.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

And the pins come out

Eight weeks seems like a very long time, when you are in the third trimester of a pregnancy or, as in this instance, you have pins in your toes following hammer toe surgery. At last the eight weeks are up, actually not until Friday, but the pins came out today, Wednesday.

I now have quite a collection of hardware from my right foot. The pin from the first hammer toe and the screw from the bunionectomy, both last year, and now two more pins from this years hammer toes.

My surgeon did warn me of the three possible complications to watch for during those 8 weeks, worst would be if the pins decided to work their way out, next the possibility of infection as with any surgery, and least serious the pins might decided to snuggle into my foot (not his exact words but that is what he meant).

the pin on the right went in
I guess I was fortunate that only one toe chose to be complicated and that was the least serious, five and half weeks after surgery the pin decided to get further embedded. I immediately made an appointment (it was somewhat painful) and he eased it out again.That was a waste of time, within two days it was back in as far as it could manage with the cap up against the tip of my toe. Well, I didn't have the time nor the inclination to go back every two days to have it pulled out a bit, and as it was only two more weeks to removal I put up with it.

The night before they came out

Finally removal time! To be able to wear a pair of shoes again so that I could walk evenly, to be able to shower without one leg encased in plastic! what a pleasure that will be.

the morning after they came out

Last time I meant to take a video of the removal, but I had my camera on the wrong setting, so all I got was a still (which you can see here). This time I got a video of both pins coming out. I didn't want to post the video here and gross anyone out, but I posted it on YouTube and you can watch it here. I promise you there is no blood, and it still amazes me that it is absolutely totally painless to have them pulled, no pain killers, no local anaesthetic of any sort required.

Next I have got to get a pedicure!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Massage Therapy

There is a reason why it is called Massage Therapy - it is extremely therapeutic, and you shouldn't just take my word for it, you really should try it for yourself.

Wiki says:
Massage is the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques, to enhance function, aid in the healing process, decrease muscle reflex activity, inhibit motor-neuron excitability, promote relaxation and well-being, and as a recreational activity.
Of course, it was a very long time before I found the courage to try it. I always wanted to, but it seemed such a personal intrusion and I am not a touchy feely type of person. I have more personal space than most, well, whether I have it or not, I need it. I was in my fifties before I finally gave in and then only because we had a couple of Massage Therapists come into the office, armed with massage chairs, once a week. I spoke with colleagues who regularly indulged and discovered exactly what a chair massage was and decided to give it a try.

What is so good about chair massage for the novice massagee is that it is performed fully dressed, the massagee that is, naturally the Massager is always fully dressed (assuming you are going to a reputable Massage Therapist - and for the purpose of this blog I am assuming that).

When I changed jobs, my new company also had a visiting Massage Therapist, the amazing Shelly Baldwin and I was quick to sign up. That 15 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon was the highlight of my working week. I mentioned before that I am a worrier, as a result my shoulders and upper back get knotted, add to that the fact that I work at a computer all day and everyone knows what stress a keyboard can cause to arms and shoulders. In fact I soon got in the habit of indulging in double sessions. It costs approximately the same as a pedicure and is as relaxing and much more beneficial. Of course, I do also have a pedicure fairly regularly.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, partly the economy causing layoff and economic stress, the demand for our chair Massages wained and eventually it was not viable for Shelly to make the trip to our offices any more.

As a result I did get brave enough to try a full body massage, and discovered that, at least with our skillful and highly trained Shelly, despite the absence of clothes (mine that is) there was no sense of embarrassment, and at no time was I, nor did I feel, exposed.

My husband, on the other hand, had no interest in even attempting to submit to a simple chair massage and after my first suggestion was shot down without pause, I didn't mention it again for a number of years. When he got stiff and sore I, untrained and ignorant as I was, attempted to massage away the knots. But it was hard on my hands. I suffered some permanent damage to my hands many years ago, due carpal tunnel syndrome which I had before it became fashionable, and so was neglected by the medical experts for so long that the nerves never recovered after they finally operated. So, finally Larry agreed to give a chair massage a try if, as I suggested, Shelly would bring her chair to us.

I was more than willing to have a double session, and I convinced Larry that he should too, and with my mother in law agreeing to a single 15 minute session, I was sure that if I offered to cover mileage costs, Shelly might oblige. And she agreed!

We don't have a regular arrangement, but as soon as Larry gets to a point where he has to ask me more than once in a week to massage his shoulders, I call on Shelly and arrange a session. Now, I hasten to add, Shelly does this as a favor for me, but I strongly recommend you contact her and, if you are not ready for a full body massage, arrange for her to come to your place of work with her magic hands and chair. I promise you, the benefits are well worth it, and your colleagues will thank you too!. Check out her website here. Or visit her Facebook page here.

If you are still not convinced, the Mayo Clinic says about the benefits of massage:
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It's increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.  
Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. 
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain

Monday, May 12, 2014

Moving office - pros and cons

Having been ensconced in my office for the best part of 8 years, the idea of moving to a new office had more pros than cons.

The reason I (and a number of my colleagues) were moving was due to the company's growth. We already filled the entire 3rd floor of what would have been a perfect location on the edge of the Barton Creek Green Belt, but for the fact that it is 30 miles away from where I live, and on the other side of city of Austin, so not just a long commute, a long and very busy commute towards, and through the city centre. So, moving from the 3rd to the 2nd floor might be a few steps closer to home, but that doesn't change the commute, and in fact will increase the number of times I have to climb the stairs up to the 3rd floor for meetings. Fortunately, I see the exercise as a pro.

Old office packed and ready to go

Being forced to clear out all the drawers and shelves in my office is definitely a big pro - it is way past time to do that, the con side is that I took a bunch of stuff home and now it clutters up my storage room and will honestly have to be thrown out. I have a hard time throwing anything away, because 'you never know when you will need it again'.

A definite con is the amount of hours lost packing and unpacking. A small con is also the fact that the new office space was only just barely ready to move into, there is still the snag list to be taken care of, but that is minor, and should be done and forgotten by the second week.

As I see it the biggest pro is that we (Development and QA) are essentially a quiet group, spending much of our day engrossed in and focused on our work, usually that requires deep concentration. We are now removed from the considerable noise that did surround us, from departments whose modus operandi was noisy by virtue of their job and their personalities. We are also off the beaten track, there will be no casual passers by, anyone coming down to our area will do so because they have business there, therefore the frequent unnecessary interruptions will (should) cease, that is after the initial curiosity visits have ceased.

Now, if we can just remember to turn off the coffee before the last person leaves in the evening, we should be set.

New Office, unpacked and settling in

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mother's Day

And yes, I did check with the grammar-monster before placing the apostrophe. The monster told me this:
Mother's Day or Mothers' Day?
Mother's Day is the official name of the holiday. It is for each family to celebrate its mother. Of course, grammatically speaking, it could be Mothers' Day (i.e., a day to celebrate all the mothers in the world). However, Mother's Day is the version used in the law which made the day an official holiday in the US, and this is used as a precedent.

I have a number of differing emotions connected to this day.

my Sterling Silver rose
planted in memory of my mother
First I have to say that I have 3 Mother's Days. In Ireland Mother's Day is celebrated in mid-March, in the U.S it is early May, and in France it is late May. I have one child in each of these countries, I do believe that is called greedy? I also have a stepson here in the U.S.  I really think that stepchildren should not feel obliged, nor be expected to honor both mother and stepmother. After all, it is Mother's Day, not Stepmother's Day. It is hard enough on him that he has to answer to two sets of parents, but then to have to do two Mother's Days and two Father's Days is, in my opinion, too much.

My early Mother's Day memories as a mother myself, are non-memories, that is until my children were old enough to take matters into their own hands, the nearest we got to celebrating Mother's Day in our house was the one where the flower shop tried to deliver my neighbor's flowers to my house. I must admit I was speechless when I opened the door to see this huge bouquet of flowers with a man scarcely visible behind it. My first instinct was sad but true - 'You must have the wrong house', and sure enough he did. I directed him up the hill and as I closed the door I wondered what it must be like to have a big bouquet of flowers delivered to the door.

Many years later I found out that it was a wonderful feeling, despite the fact that I tell him I am not his mother, and only his son's stepmother, my husband sends me flowers every Mother's Day (oh and for every other occasion too - you can see more about him here).

But every mother's day I have to admit there is a small cloud, not just because my mother is no longer with us, but because she passed away in early May, the Thursday before Mother's Day in the US. I spent the Friday traveling from San Francisco where I was living, to Dublin, arriving just barely in time to get to the church for the funeral. That afternoon my son took me to buy a mother's day gift for me, a tattoo. I already had three, this was my fourth and final one, on my lower back so I don't see it very often, but when I catch sight of it I remember my mother, not that I actually ever forget her, but I stop and think about her.

That Mother's day, Sunday May 11th 1997, I gathered with my siblings and our children and we celebrated our Mother's life. This year, Mother's Day once again falls on the 11th May and once again I will celebrate her life and all that she has given me.

It is sad on Mother's Day to not have your mother near, but every Mother's Day also spare a thought for those mothers who have lost their children, and for those who would give anything to be a mother but nature denies them.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Karma - What comes around goes around

My kids will tell you that one of my favorite quotes is 'trust the universe'. Now, if you read my blog regularly, you will probably know that I am not a religious person. I am not anti religion, I believe that we are responsible for our own lives and our own karma. What I do not believe is that we have a right to interfere in anyone else's karma.

I believe that it is up to each one of us to find our own way to achieve a happy and fulfilling existence and I firmly believe that if things are not going our way, if we are not happy with our lives, then we do not kneel and pray, we do not make deals with the devil nor with the universe to fix our mistakes, because where we are is entirely due to our own decisions, or worse, lack of decisions - doing nothing. Making a bad decision is better than making no decision and letting opportunity pass you by.

So, when I say trust the universe, I am really saying stop fighting your way against the tide, relax and go with the flow. If it isn't working, stop what you are doing and change direction. And keep doing that until it starts to look right and feel good. I don't believe there is only one right choice, just as there is not only one wrong one. All I am saying is why keep following the direction that is clearly not working for you? It took me a long time to figure this out (my book explains how I finally managed to).

While the concept karma originates from the belief in reincarnation, it can equally be applied to the laws of cause and effect in a singular existence.
(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.
from Sanskrit karman ‘action, effect, fate.’
According to Deepak Chopra
What is Karma? Karma simply means action. Every action has consequences. Karma creates the future, but it is also an echo from the past, conditions our soul through memory, desire and imagination.

I do believe that ever action has a consequence. Sooner or later everything you do will come back, either to bite you in the ass or reward you, the theory of 'pay it forward'.

It is sometimes very hard to NOT want to be around to watch someone who has hurt you get that bite, but while you are waiting for that you are missing opportunities to generate your own good karma.

John Stepper has a nice post about this on his blog, and here is a link to Random Acts of Kindness stories.

Liberty Mutual had an advertisement that caught my attention, one of the very few advertisements that I actually watch, and though it is staged, it always makes me feel good.

Watch it here:

And finally, this ad from Coca Cola, this was not staged but compiled from security camera footage from around the world: