THE YOGA YEARS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I taught Yoga for eight years, from 1995-2003. Those were eight very happy years. After that, I developed severe sciatica and had to stop teaching. I still miss it.

I got into Yoga in a backhanded way. In 1994, my then 14-year-old son was struggling at school with, among other things, ADHD. I was trying anything and everything, including medication, to help him get through school in one piece. I had heard that Yoga could help with focus, so I decided we should give it a try.

The class was torture for David. He couldn’t even focus enough to follow the class and fell hopelessly behind. I, on the other hand, left the class feeling that my life had changed in some significant way.

By 1995, I was serious enough to enroll in a Kripalu Center Training Program that trained and certified Yoga instructors. Most training programs involved a one month, live in commitment. I don’t know who can ever disappear from their lives for a whole month. I certainly couldn’t.

Fortunately Kripalu offered a weekend program that covered, I think six weekends, somewhere in Pennsylvania. Hours away but doable. Perfect for me.

Me with a fellow student at the Kripalu Teacher Certification Program

I loved that program and I came to love the people. There was lots of reading and home practice so my family had to do with much less of me for those six weeks. The classes and the material were very much oriented to teaching us how to teach. I’m very grateful for that because I honed my teaching skills in those classes. I found it fascinating. I also found that I was good at it.

I’ve never been a spiritual person. I’m an atheist who believes in science and hard evidence above all else. Thankfully, this class also focused on explaining the science of Yoga. There are physiological reasons why every Yoga practice actually effects your body and mind on a cellular level. I learned that the breath is how we communicate between our mind and our body. I learned how muscles stretch and change  — gradually and in conjunction with the breath.

I learned how relaxation and breathing techniques can help promote focus, centeredness, self-confidence, inner calm and a positive perspective. It’s amazing to me that monks from thousands of years ago understood this sophisticated level of biology, physiology, physics and chemistry.

Me, on the left, my mentor in the center and another Yoga teacher

I loved teaching. My students liked me too, which was very gratifying. I really felt that I changed people’s lives. I helped people deal with chronic pain and chronic stress as well as injuries and family crises. It was much more than an exercise class.

I just found out that someone who got interested in Yoga through my class, has just opened her own studio in my area. I’m going to take her class to show her my support and to see how much I influenced her Yoga and teaching style. That should be a wonderful experience for me.

I taught in a variety of venues. I taught classes in wellness Centers, Yoga Centers and Fitness Centers. I taught private classes in people’s homes for anywhere from two to four people.

My official “instructor photo” at the Fitness Edge

I liked to teach my students how to use the Yoga they learned in their daily lives. So I collected and handed out articles on the practical application of Yoga principles in everyday life. Things like how to sit at a computer so as to reduce physical and mental stress. Stretching exercises to do in the shower, on line at the supermarket or at your desk to reduce muscle tension and other forms of physical and emotional stress. How to use your breath to diffuse your automatic and damaging physiological stress reaction to a stressful situation.

I ended up creating a whole booklet for my students called “On The Go Stress Control”. In 2016 I published a four-part blog of the same title, for Serendipity.

See ON THE GO STRESS CONTROL – PART 1;  ON THE GO STRESS CONTROL – PART 2ON THE GO STRESS CONTROL –  PART 3; and ON THE GO STRESS CONTROL – PART 4.

The cover of my student manual

I understood that most people don’t have twenty minutes every day to meditate or 40 minutes every day to do Yoga. I felt that people needed to be able to incorporate simple Yoga techniques into their everyday routines. My goal was to give my students one to two-minute mini breathing or relaxation exercises to use throughout their day. This would help them deal with the 24/7 stress of modern life, which can be physically as well as mentally toxic.

I tried to get my manual published but was initially told that the subject matter was too obscure. A few years later, Yoga began to become more mainstream and I tried again to get published. This time I was told that the quick and easy Yoga and stress relief market was already glutted. I couldn’t win.

I was teaching a Yoga class on the morning of September 11, 2001. The first plane had hit before class started but it wasn’t until class was over that we learned about the second plane and about the terrorist attack. We did some extra breathing and relaxation exercises. I hope that helped my students deal with the horrific reality that was unfolding as we left class and turned on our radios and TV’s.

Front page of a marketing flyer for my Stress Control Program

Although I can’t do the physical practice of Yoga regularly anymore because of my sciatica, I still use breathing and relaxation techniques all the time. I use one to help me sleep, one to make walks more productive and less tiring and many others to help stay centered and positive. I use stretching combined with breathing to keep my muscles tension and pain-free most of the time.

Both my body and my mind are different now then they were before Yoga. I am in a much happier and healthier place in my life, in part because of my immersion in Yoga. I highly recommend it for people at any stage of life. It’s never too late to grow and change for the better. And have fun along the way.

DOONESBURY NAILED IT 41 YEARS AGO – BY BRAINWRAP (AND ME)

Doonesbury nailed it 41 years ago. — By Brainwrap 


 I remember this specific strip too. I was an ardent follower of Doonesbury back in those days. How ironic and sad that his material is relevant 41 years after publication. 

LEGALIZING THE RIGHT TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE

I remember those bad old days. When contraception wasn’t great and no matter how hard you tried, you might end up pregnant anyway. We fought a lonely battle to retain control over our own bodies. We won. I was sure we won, didn’t we? Because Roe V. Wade put an end to finding abortion in a back room somewhere.

pro-choice-advert

I remember the days of backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion threw themselves off bridges rather than have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, often with lethal results.

Despite conservative backlash and brainwashing on this issue, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life.

suffragettes

Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, including a desire to be more than a mother, physical health, welfare of existing children, and simple desire to survive. Meanwhile, men are trying to stop a woman’s access to abortion are equally determined to keep the same women from getting effective birth control.

So if too many feminists are “anti-man,” how many of these men are blatantly anti-woman? Maybe all of them? If there is any other possible logic to men who want women to not abort also making sure they are bound to get pregnant, tell me what it is.

What’s the real point? I don’t think it has anything to do with life or with living a better life. It’s about power and putting women back in their place so these old white men can take back the control they’ve lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant.

If men had babies, this would not be happening.

war-on-women

So many women my age went through an abortion or something very close to it. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, talked it over with friends, family, counselors, ministers … and then did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We were adult women. We had the right and the obligation to decide what happens to our bodies and our lives.

I maintain my long-standing position on this matter: if you are not in personal possession of a vagina and/or a uterus, your opinion is unwelcome. I do not care what you believe. Until you walk in my shoes and live in my body, you know nothing.

Why am I weighing in on this?


The most significant gains in personal freedom women have won are at risk. If we don’t speak up, speak out, and stand together, we will lose it. All of it.

I am many years past child-bearing age. This isn’t about me, my friends, or my life. It’s about women. All women. Here and everywhere. About whether or not we have the right to decide what happens to us. If there is a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, to bear the number of children we want from none to whatever.


I want all woman to not be managed by men whose stake in the matter is tangential. At best. How about that?

No one wants an abortion, but sometimes, you need one.

HACKING YOUR HEARTBEAT

You thought this was a creepy, personal fantasy.
It turns out to be real. I told’ya, didn’t I?


FDA recalls close to half-a-million pacemakers over hacking fears


Turns out former Vice President (and erratic shooter) Dick Cheney was right all along: Your heart can be hacked. At least if you have a pacemaker, that is. On Tuesday, the FDA recalled 465,000 of the medical devices — the ones that help control your heart beat — citing security vulnerabilities. The pacemakers, which come from health company Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical), require a firmware update. Fortunately, it can be installed by a health care provider in just three minutes. The models affected include the Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure.


EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)


Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade information he has — which he claims involves national security and Agah Bayar, the arms dealer.

Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston where a group of surgeons wanted to see if it COULD be done. Can you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed this experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to do it. But you could do it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

 


NOTES:

I had all that heart surgery in March 2014, not 2013 (how soon we forget) — which I now know was 2014 because I have implant cards to tell people what spare parts are in my body. Unfortunately, none of them indicates which part is which — which ones are implanted heart valves and which one is the pacemaker. Just trying to find out if my pacemaker is being recalled. I mean, my car is being recalled, so why not my pacemaker?

I also had one transplant card for each breast, but that one seems to have gone missing. Oh well … I believe that number is imprinted on the silicon baggies, so I’m sure they will find it as needed.


In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker because the surgeons fixed it back in 2012. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

It is  kind of creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It’s in the hollow by my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. It’s impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

MEMORIZING NORMAL … WHAT WAS THAT?

It was another trip to the oncologist. About 3 months ago, I was checking out my fake breasts and found something that hadn’t been there before. Now, before everyone starts to worry, don’t. I felt it in the right breast — like a hard, flat piece of scar tissue. It was located directly below the scar line on that breast. I didn’t find anything like it on the left breast. I did a little check on the internet and discovered that yes, there is a kind of cancer that can feel like hardened scar tissue in an implanted breast. It is rare and usually what you are feel is exactly what it is: a hardened piece of scar tissue.

I thought about it for a few weeks. Finally, I decided to see my oncologist. I’m seven years past my original cancer. Anyone who has had cancer knows you are never “cured” of cancer. You can be in remittance for a lifetime, but it can come back. Anytime, anywhere in your body.

If you come from a cancer-prone family, you could get an entirely new type of cancer in some other organ. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that successfully dealing with one disease doesn’t stop you from getting another.

I’ve also learned to not trust how I feel. I always think I’m fine. This is probably a survival mechanism. I will probably die while being convinced I’m suffering a mild and temporary setback or maybe a weather-related allergy.

So, I wasn’t worried about this turn of events. I hadn’t been concerned about what turned out to be bi-lateral cancer. Back then, I was sure it was just a benign cyst. It turned out to be cancer in both breasts.

Essentially, my prior record on guessing what’s wrong with me (I was also sure my heart was fine) has proven 100% wrong, so I went to see Dr. Tahir in May. He agreed it’s probably nothing more than hardened scar tissue. If I want to be absolutely sure, we could run a CT scan.  I’ve gotten so much radiation over the years, I’m hesitant to allow more radiation. Also, the co-pay for a CT scan is $450 which I don’t have. So I declined. He suggested I come back in a couple of months and see if anything had changed.

This was that followup visit.

Waiting at the Dana-Farber

Nothing had changed as far as I could tell … or as far as he could tell. He did encourage me to call him if anything bothers me at all, no matter where or what. I know this is for my benefit because he doesn’t believe I will call unless I think I’m actually about to croak. Still, the urgency of his tone — CALL ME ABOUT ANYTHING ANYWHERE, ANYTIME — made me edgy.

Some of this is probably about money. For want of $450, am I putting my health at risk?

I’m fairly sure (probably, maybe, or at least I think so) that if I thought this was life-or-death, I’d get the scan and figure out how to pay for it later. But, it’s also possible I want to avoid more surgery — even if it is life or death. I’ve had far too much surgery. Far too many hospitalizations. Far too many close calls with death. It’s not that I want to die. I vastly prefer life to the alternative, but I’m tired of being sliced and diced. I’m tired of years of recovery and being told how great I’m going to feel … later. I’m still waiting to feel great.

Meanwhile, all the blood work came back normal. Normal, normal, normal with a slight elevation in liver enzymes,. But that was true last time, so maybe that’s the new normal. Blood pressure normal. Weight up a little. No one except me seems worried about it. The blood levels are a pretty good indicator that nothing major is going wrong. Something would show in all those tests … right?


Sometimes I feel like a potato being slowly grated.

Every year or two, doctors remove a piece of me. Sometimes a little piece — a couple of bad heart valves, for example. Sometimes a couple of breasts. Once, a piece of bone in my leg and they added two implanted breasts, two replacement valves and a pacemaker. I believe that makes me two new pieces above my initial out-of-the-factory model.

Approximately 75% of me works almost as well as the original bits. That’s what my memories tell me, but normal is so distant in mental time, I have to work from memorized tidbits of what “normal” felt like. Of course, the rebuilt me isn’t quite the same. The individual pieces look okay, though — if you don’t look too closely. And I keep my clothing on.

NORMAL, NORMALIZING AND NORMALIZING NUTS – BY TOM CURLEY

Well, it’s been quite a week — don’t we say that every week? — and the words “unhinged” and “unprecedented” have been used even more than they were the week before.

And the week before that.

And the week before that.

A while ago, actually two weeks into this crazed mess called an administration, I wrote a blog called “We’re Getting Ahead of This Guy, But Where the Hell is He Going?” It pointed out that our “So Called President” is insane. Mentally ill. Off his rocker. A few fries short of a Happy Meal.

I pointed out that regardless of your political affiliation, you can’t have a President who is INSANE! When your Grandpa starts to show signs of dementia, you get him help. Maybe you have to put him in a home. BUT YOU DON’T MAKE HIM PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!!

I said way back then, seven years ago (months are years in Trump-time), that the media had to start concentrating on this. Every day. Examine everything he says and does from the viewpoint of “This guy’s nuts.

He just proved it again.”

And this week, it finally happened. After the “campaign rally” SCROTUS held Tuesday night, August 22, 2017, I watched the media react in stunned shock. And then they all started talking about how this guy is seriously whacked.

They have also learned to call a lie, a lie. Not a “falsehood”. Not a “misrepresentation of the facts”. No, they called what he said exactly what it was. Lies. CNN covered the whole speech and then had a panel spend the next ten minutes or so talking about how this guy is insane. MSNBC only showed video of parts of the speech as pundit after pundit talked about how this guy has gone around the bend. They would bring the audio up now and then, listen for about 20 seconds and go “He’s not saying anything. And what he just said was a lie.” And then they’d go back to talking about how crazy he is.

There’s been lots of talk since this whack-job took office about “normalizing his behavior”. How we can’t let things like racism, misogyny, xenophobia and eating steak well done with ketchup become “normal”.

But here’s the thing. We are “normalizing” him. Just not in the way everybody thought. We are all recognizing he is insane and we are basically ignoring him. The world laughs at us and has started to stop paying any attention to anything he says.

Even leaders like Kim Jon Un are saying things like “Wow, I’m the sane one here. How insane is that?

He’s lost Congress. Even though it is controlled by his own party. He’s lost enough Senators to stop anything he might try to pass. Both houses voted by over 90% to stop him from lifting sanctions on Russia.  Republicans have introduced legislation protecting Robert Mueller’s special investigation. Stories leak every day from White House aides saying basically, “You think what he said today was insane? You have no idea what we stop him from saying every day!”. He’s being marginalized.

News reports are coming down  to this.

ANCHOR 1: In the news today, the President said something incredibly stupid and crazy.

ANCHOR 2: Yup. Moving on to sports …

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The good news is that my son, David, now 37, is an amazing, well-adjusted adult. The bad news is that he had to overcome severe and consistent adversity to get there.

He started life as a preemie. He was born eight and a half weeks early, at 4 pounds 2 ounces, with Hyalin Membrane disease – his lungs weren’t working. At 36 hours old, his lung collapsed and had to be surgically re-inflated. He spent one week on oxygen and six weeks in an incubator before he could come home at 4 pounds 15 ounces. I got to watch his eyebrows and eyelashes grow in!

David and me in the Preemie unit. David is 6 weeks old and out of the incubator.

He had an amazing disposition as a child. He was happy, outgoing and friendly. But he was also hyperactive. He had behavior problems at school from day one. Teachers didn’t know what to do with this delightful kid who couldn’t sit still or keep his mouth shut and was often a distraction to the other kids.

At nine and a half years old, David had a tonsillectomy. The anesthesia didn’t work properly and he woke up during surgery. He was totally paralyzed but he could see and hear everything going on around him! This was a traumatic enough event to trigger PTSD. He was never the same after he came out of that surgery. One child went in and a different child came out. It was that dramatic!

David started getting sick all the time and missed a lot of school. His behavior problems got worse. The private schools in New York City didn’t have the resources, or the interest in dealing with children with ‘issues’. We moved to Connecticut and put the kids into a public school. This school had a Special Ed Department, a school psychologist and a Guidance Counselor , all of whom tried to help David as best they could.

David was diagnosed with ADHD. The only medication of the day for ADHD, Ritalin, had terrible side effects for him so he had to stop taking it. We tried numerous other drugs and therapies and some helped a little but not much.

David was also diagnosed with learning disabilities. And he had mood swings. He could function adequately for a while but then he would crash and not want to get out of bed or go to school. Everything was a struggle for him. His school years were a nightmare for the whole family.He somehow made it through High School, with the highest absentee record his school had ever seen. He went to a wonderful two-year college called Landmark, which is specifically for kids with various learning and behavior problems. For the first time, David was taught how to manage his ADHD and his learning disabilities. He was given the tools to help him handle his work and regulate his behavior. Landmark was a wonderful and transformative experience for David.

At 23, while finishing the remaining two years of college, his kidneys began to fail. He took a year off from school to recuperate. During this time, David taught himself about the stock market and switched his major from education to business. He graduated college and became a financial analyst, and is now also a portfolio manager.

At one point he had to be rushed to the hospital in kidney failure. He was told that his condition was chronic and that his kidneys would continue to fail until he needed a kidney transplant. His kidneys didn’t hit bottom till he was 32. But it was pretty rough on the way down. On April 12, 2012, I donated a kidney to him.

David at 27

Unfortunately, David is still not symptom free. He has side effects from the immune suppressants which all transplant recipients must take to avoid organ rejection. In addition, his kidney is not functioning at full capacity, so he has days when all he can do is sleep.

Fortunately, his attitude is amazingly positive. He is grateful to be alive. He uses every day to fight his demons and make a happy and productive life for himself and his loved ones. He is one of the most self-aware people I know. He had to fight to get here, but the fight itself is part of what has made him into the person he is – caring and empathetic, upbeat and funny, loyal and giving. I could go on and on.

David three years ago, at 34, with me and his sister

He says that he wouldn’t change anything in his life, however awful much of it was. Because that was the path he had to take to get him to the wonderful place he’s in now. I would love to be able to change his past, but I wouldn’t change a thing about who he is now and where he is in life.