Are We Hoarders–or Memory Keepers?

More and more often my widowed friends tell me they MUST get busy and clear out their homes in order to downsize and move! Then, they add, “But I just can’t get started.”

So the mad circle continues until they are incapable of moving and their families have to go in and do it for them.

One friend’s family was able to get a “helper” three days a week from a charity organization to help her sort her “stuff” and her life. This woman’s tiny, two-room apartment is so cluttered with five cartons of old movie tapes, bags of clothes from Goodwill, and family photos of her life, from early childhood through the birth of 16 grandchildren, that she no longer can sleep in her bedroom, but goes to bed in recliner chair.

“My helper puts three boxes out–one for Goodwill, one for things to keep, and one for garbage,” she explained, recreating a horror scene in my mind from TLC’s Hoarders series.

Fortunately, her loving family just decided to take over this mission. They plan to go in, clear out all but the most important “memory items” and move her to an assisted living facility.

But It makes me think about a recent article I read concerning the psychology of “saving”–AKA “hoarding.”

We do it because each item or photo has a comforting memory attached to it and that makes us feel as though those people involved in it are still close by. We look at the picture of our parents holding us in their arms, or holding our hands, or beaming at our graduations and weddings–and we feel them close.

Our weddings albums often take prime real estate in our homes after our spouses’ death for that same reason. We turn the pages, again and again, and in addition to reliving those days when we were all young, strong, and attractive , we were, most importantly, together.

So keep those especially dear memories, of course., But don’t clutter your living space and your mind with so many memories you can’t find your way to the bedroom.

Try and remember you are never alone because YOU are there!


New Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fix

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because my fingers hurt and she diagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and she was right.

She said it was caused by making fists while I slept that put a strain on those hand muscles, and gave me mitts to wear overnight.

She wasn’t quite right there, since the pain continued and intensified.

It was so bad yesterday I went online to read about the syndrome and learned it is usually caused by repeated strain on certain muscles in the wrist and hand, and I realized the real cause.

Each morning I held my cell phone in the same position for an hour while talking to my daughter, and last week I spent far more holiday hours than usual holding a very good book in the same position as the cell phone. No wonder those fingers were sore!

Many of my friends are undergoing carpal tunnel surgery now, and I suspect it’s because they too are overusing those new mobile devices and computers. So the first thing I did yesterday was to buy a Verizon Blue Tooth for my cell phone, setting my fingers free. Next I loaded my Kindle with free books from my local library’s Media Mall, and then I visited Google, and checked out: carpal tunnel exercises.

I was directed to where an occupational therapist’s video demonstrated a series of four exercises guaranteed to help carpal tunnel pain within a day.

Believe it or not—that DID work. I spread my fingers at my sides, moved them as the video demonstrated 30 times, and repeated it a few more times before bed. I didn’t wear the mitts and for the first time in months I awoke pain free. To stay that way, I’m talking on my Blue Tooth clipped to my ear, and reading books on Kindle.

If you’re dealing with this mystifying pain, check out the exercises before you see a surgeon.

It won’t hurt—–literally.


Snow on the Roof, Fire in the Heart

(This just in from a dear friend/reader:)

Dorothy and Edna, two “senior” widows, are talking:

Dorothy: “That nice Monte Swank asked me out for a date. I know you went out with him last week, and I wanted to talk with you about him before I give him my answer.”

Edna: “Well, I’ll tell you. He shows up at my apartment punctually at 7 pm, dressed like such a gentleman in a fine suit, and he brings me such beautiful flowers! Then he takes me downstairs. And what’s there; a limousine, uniformed chauffeur and all. Then he takes me out for dinner; a marvelous dinner, lobster, champagne, dessert, and after-dinner drinks. Then we go see a show. Let me tell you Dorothy, I enjoyed it so much I could have just died from pleasure! So then we are coming back to my apartment and he turns into an ANIMAL. Completely crazy, he tears off my expensive new dress and has his way with me three times!”

Dorothy: “Goodness gracious!… so you are telling me I shouldn’t go?”

Edna: “No, no, no… I’m just saying, wear an old dress.”

Use Snooze to Refresh

Remember when you were in Kindergarten and after an hour of exhausting play the teacher took out bright mats, put then on the floor and told you to lie down?

And you had a peaceful half hour nap.

I distinctly remember feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and raring to race around the classroom again when I woke up.

Well, things haven’t changed all that much.

Whenever I’m home for the day I find so many things to do I’m usually exhausted after lunch when I’ve just taken my daily jgb on the treadmill. I try and rest on the den couch with a book, but before I know it, I’ve konked out.

Usually it’s about half an hour before I wake feeling totally refreshed, and can get busy polishing the family silver or clicking away on the keyboard to fill posts on this blog. Try it, you’ll like it. ###

Yes, Virginia, You CAN Reinvent Yourself

Most people try to just keep on going after they reach 77.

But Inspirational Speaker/Author/Social Worker Joan E. Childs, LCSW, who reached that age in October, 2016, had other plans. She totally changed her life and reinvented herself–again.

The result was her newest career as an inspirational speaker. She had already changed her life and reinvented herself twice before.

“What does it mean to be reinvented? What does it mean to keep changing and growing no matter your age? What does it mean to fulfill your dreams and aspire to reach your full potential?” she asks. And then she answers those questions.

“Forty years ago I was divorced with five children all under the age of eleven. I was a single parent, living without child support for nearly a year trying to keep a roof over my family’s head. I had been awarded the house in my divorce settlement, but did not have enough money to maintain the debt service,” she explains. “The child support had been garnished by the IRS from my ex-husband’s bank accounts along with his declaring bankruptcy. I took the $18,000 I was awarded in alimony and invested it in graduate school.”

So, in 1975 at the age of thirty-five she started work on an MSW degree. Graduating from Barry College in 1978, at 38, she began a new life. She survived, remarried, and developed a successful private practice.

But in 1998 after her 34-year-old daughter Pam, who suffered from a bipolar disorder, jumped from a 15- story window and died. Soon afterward Joan also lost her husband, best friend, mother-in-law and father.

Again she faced the choice of becoming a victim or survivor and chose the latter. She began writing a journal about her grief, which became the book about Pam’s suicide: “Why Did She Jump?” now also being made into a film.

Determined to find meaning in her daughter’s life, Joan decided, at 77, to try and work at taking the shame and stigma out of mental illness.

“My mission was to help other families who suffered the same tragedy,” she says. And she did so by becoming an inspirational speaker.

“Loss comes in many ways,” she says. “We can lose a loved one, the worst being a child as I have. We can lose our health, our job, our youth, our financial security, our marriage, our relationships, our beloved pet and our peace of mind. I decided to expand my thesis from losing a child and/or loved one to any loss that causes grief. My hope is to share my story, with others who suffer losses and help them grieve until acceptance is achieved.

“Death and loss of a loved one is inevitable, certain and an unavoidable, inexorable part of life.” she continues. “No one escapes. I want to give hope where grievers feel there is none. I want to give solutions where grievers believe there are none. I want to give courage where grievers lost their desire to move on.”

And that mission led to yet another “reinvention”—a self-help book she recently began work on, “Six Steps to Life After Loss.”


Why Alexander Hamilton ‘Hurried’

After reading Ron Chernow’s 700+-page historical novel “Hamilton,” and now carefully listening to the CD of the hit musical taken from it, I confess it has consumed many of my waking hours.

I played the CD of ACT 1 several times while reading the booklet of the entire script along with it. Once I had that fairly well understood and much of it memorized, I graduated to just listening to it as I went about the house. Now I’ve moved on to the second, ACT II, CD, and have begun the same procedure of reading the script along with it a few times.

All this is in preparation for returning to see the play a second time, because I didn’t understand a word of the fast hip-hop rap the first time when I saw it with no preparation in New York.

I advise anyone planning to see it make similar preparations. At the very least, listen to the CD.

But this also has made me think seriously about the make-up of the man who had so much to do with creating our nation. There is constant reference in the book and play to the fact that he’s in a big hurry, to “get the job done,” to “not miss my shot,” and to frantically pack everything he has to do into his lifetime–which he expected to be short–and was.

Here’s the interesting point for me:

Years ago I wrote a series in the Chicago Daily News focusing on The Early Death of a Parent. Hamilton had that experience, and one of the most consistent reactions to that trauma is a feeling that one must hurry to accomplish as much as possible as fast as one can–because life is short and, as witnessed by a parnet’s death, it definitely does end.

The other point made by the psychoanalysts I interviewed was that this trauma often motivates the child to work harder than he would ordinarily and accomplish much more than he would have without this tragedy.

“But it merely intensifies the talents the child already has,” said the analysts. “The early death of a parent can’t make a silk purse of a sow’s ear.”

Clearly Hamilton fit right into that analysis in my series, which is filed in the library at the Institute for Psychoanalysis of Chicago.

Skip ‘Trump’ , ‘Politics,’ at Holiday Parties

Family and close friends had gathered for Thanksgiving dinner and conversations began over cocktails with inquiries about each others’ activities, health and “who’s getting married next?”

Then someone said that dangerous word: “TRUMP.” Silence fell and one new young addition to the family piped up, “I think it was awful the way the cast of ‘Hamilton’ scolded V-P elect Pence after the show. When you pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket you shouldn’t have to take that!”

Silence fell. Almost everyone else in the room applauded the cast for respectfully stating their case for liberty, free speech, and equality, and also pointing out the famous line in the play, “Immigrants! We get the job done!”

Then one wise matriarch, who happened to be the hostess, spoke to the young woman. “There are several different view points here, but since we all love each other, we aren’t going to discuss politics tonight.”

One young man interrupted with, “Oh, we love to argue. We do it all the time.”

And the matriarch answered, “But not on my watch. Do it at your own party.”

And that seemed to me the perfect way to handle this confrontation that is sure to arise at parties all over the nation during this holiday season.

For Your Holiday Reading, Listening Pleasure

1.Amidst any time of uncertainty and despair, like that we are living in now, comfort has always been drawn from books and music.

I’ve been reading “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow since seeing the play, and today ordered the CD so I can match the real story with the music and musical.

Unless you’re accustomed to rap and hip-hop, I advise you to do the same BEFORE you see this wonderful, marvelous show!

2.In addition, I’ve begun reading a new novel, “The Ice Merchant” by Dr. Paul Boor, MD,. It’s about a merchant ship captain who makes a delivery of ice to a new medical school in Galveston, TX, then discovers a grizzly secret frozen deep inside it. With the help of a woman scientist associate–the mystery is solved. Of course there is a message–but it’s darn good, exciting writing as well.

All are available on

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Stop Fearing Addiction in Old Age

Why is everyone I know so afraid of everything?

Had lunch with my friend Alice last week, and she said she’s so anxious about the world, her kids, and her health, she can’t sleep, so her doctor prescribed sleeping pills.

“But I’m too scared to take them,” she confessed. “I’m afraid I’ll get addicted.”

“Oh, for God”s sake, Alic,” I exploded. “You’re 85. How long are you going to live? You can take Heroin!”


GIve Fex Ex and UPS a hand


Here’s one more thing we to worry about.

When we live alone we don’t always have someone in the house to receive packages, and delivery people often leave them outside the front door–or lying on the floor of the entry hall of a large apartment complex.

Naturally there’s the very distant possibility that a neighbor might pick one up and take it home.

But this is more likely: My cousin told me today that her community paper reports thieves sare starting to drive behind those delivery trucks and when they see a package left outside or in the hall, they swoop in and pick it up.

(“I don’t know what they’ll do with my boxes full of Depends,” she said).

But, seriously, don’t place an order online if you’re not planning to be there to accept and sign for it. Make arrangements to pick them up in the delivery service’s office.