Tree Hugger

 

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I love trees.  My favorite tree–Harriet–lives on the golf course near our house.  She’s huge and beautiful.  A few limbs are missing and she even has a scar– a deep, deep line that stretches way, way up to as far as I can see. I have to sneak on the golf course just to visit her.  But–it’s well worth it — because with every visit — I  am transported.  And I feel renewed, free. Unlimited.

 

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My twin sister, Akwelle, is a serious tree hugger.  She says she only hugs the trees that call out to her.  But, on our daily walks with Kookaburra (our dog)–Akwelle can often be found cavorting with tree, after tree, after tree, after tree.

 

 

I am a lot more self conscious than Akwelle is.  I wish I could just go and hug a random tree–in public–without thinking too much about what some bicyclist might say or think. My favorite tree, Harriet, of course, is tucked far, far away from peeping eyes.  She is mine alone. So, no worries for me there… at least, so I thought.

 

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The other day–I saw this young man visiting Harriet–my tree.  He hugged her affectionately and said, “Bye Jacob–see you tomorrow!”  I was shocked.  Speechless even. I wanted to run up to him and say, “Her name is Harriet and she’s mine.  Go find your own tree!” But I stopped myself.

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How foolish of me to think Harriet (or “Jacob”) only belonged to me.  That’s the beauty of trees. They belong to no one.  Trees are gifts–portals that transport us all to quieter, more peaceful, elevated worlds.

 

How lucky we are to be near them.  How lucky we are to experience them.

 

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My advice–instead of watching t.v. — go out and hug a tree!

 

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I used to trust reviews on the internet–100%.  I was easily swayed by comments and  perfectly photoshopped photos of pretty people in white coats with stethoscopes.

 

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After reading reviews for this one neurologist, I convinced my sister to schedule an appointment for our mother, Alberta.

 

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“This doctor must be really good,” I said. “Five stars and she’s interested in natural medicine,” I said.   I was wrong.  Those reviews were wrong.  It was a bad experience. But at least we got forms filled out to get a temporary handicap placard for the car. And at least I learned a lesson.

 

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My twin sister later told our mom’s acupuncturist all about  the horrible experience at the neurologist’s office. He then said, “My dad’s a doctor.  You should call him.  He’s not traditional at all.  You’ll like him.”

 

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Dr. Robert Bookman, a.k.a. Dr. Bob (https://www.a2hi.com)  is not your typical doctor.  We did not even have to leave the house for the appointment with him.  He called us on the phone. He then ordered extensive lab tests to figure out how to best proceed with our mother.

  • “I want to understand everything that is out of balance with my patients in order to return them to optimum health. I provide the support and guidance for you to achieve and maintain a healthy existence.”

Robert H. Brookman, D.O.
FCCP, FACOI, ABAARM

 

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When the testing was completed– Dr. Brookman  analyzed the results and called us again–this time  with a plan of action.

 

 

Dr. Bob’s 10 steps to achieve optimum health are:

  • Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
  • Exercise is Medicine
  • Stress Reduction
  • Gastrointestinal Health
  • Detoxification
  • Balance Vitamins, Minerals, Fatty Acids and Amino Acids
  • Hormone Balance
  • Immune Modulation
  • Enhance Mitochondrial Health
  • Longevity Enhancement

The Company of Dogs

According to https://www.medicalnewstoday.com  — looking at “puppy dog eyes” triggers a 300% increase in a person’s oxytocin levels – the “love hormone” involved in maternal bonding.

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According to https://www.Helpguide.org :

  • Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. 

 

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  • One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

 

  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. 

 

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  • More than any other animal, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans and our behavior and emotions.

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  • While dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures.

 

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  • And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.

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  • Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed or anxious.

 

 

  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

 

 

  • One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that dogs (and cats) fulfill the basic human need to touch.

 

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  • Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule.

 

 

  • Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements

 

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  • And exercising every day is great for the animal as well. It will deepen the connection between you, eradicate most behavior problems in dogs, and keep your pet fit and healthy.

 

 

 

Feldenkrais for Fitness

 

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Last January (just before my mom’s stroke) I bought Bruce Holmes’ cd called The Feldenkrais Lessons: Awareness Through Movement.  I was looking for something different from my regular exercise routine. Back then, I had no idea how crucial Feldenkrais would become– not only for me and my own well being–but also for my mother, Alberta, and her stroke recovery.

 

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The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education (from https://www.feldenkrais.com):

  • The Feldenkrais Method® is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning. Through this Method, you can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. These improvements will often generalize to enhance functioning in other aspects of your life.
  • The Feldenkrais Method is based on principles of physics, biomechanics and an empirical understanding of learning and human development. By expanding the self-image through movement sequences that bring attention to the parts of the self that are out of awareness, the Method enables you to include more of yourself in your functioning movements. 

 

 

Take a moment to participate in this short lesson to try Feldenkrais for yourself.

 

 

After I read Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’ book, Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora, I knew for sure that my mom could also benefit from Feldenkrais.  In the book, Dr. Feldenkrais describes his work with Nora– a woman who suffered a massive stroke and lost her neuromuscular coordination, including the ability to read and write.

 

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Thanks to the internet, I found a Feldenkrais practitioner, Chrish Kresge (https://www.chrishkresge.com) to help my mom.

 

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Chrish teaches my mother crucial strategies for improved awareness.

 

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With Feldenkrais my mother is also learning how to overcome obstacles more effectively  with less strain on her body.

 

 

Chrish has been fundamental in helping my mother regain her balance and independence.

 

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Marching Orders

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My mother, Alberta,  likes having a schedule. Before her stroke, her life was highly routinized. She was always up by 5:30 a.m.–at the office by 7:30–home by 3:30–dinner was by  4:00– and at 4:30 she was always watching  Judge Judy.  Her nightly  bath was at 6:00  and she was in bed by 7:00 p.m.

 

 

Once our mom left the inpatient rehab facility, she soon started outpatient rehab 3-4 times a week.  This routine of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy was grueling– but our mother needed something to do.

 

 

 

 

I appreciated speech therapy the most. The speech pathologist  was the first (and only) person who explained the nature of our mom’s stroke to us.

 

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Frontal Lobe – Front part of the brain; involved in planning, organizing, problem solving, selective attention, personality and a variety of “higher cognitive functions” including behavior and emotions. 

The speech pathologist informed us that the area of the brain where our mom had her stroke (frontal lobe) governs sequence, organization and memory. She explained that speech is more than just verbal ability. It is all about how we see ourselves in space. It was the first time anyone mentioned how the brain damage from the stroke affected how our mom perceives and misperceives herself and others in the world around her. As a result of the stroke, our mom is much more impulsive and restless.  And she has no filter for her thoughts. If she thinks the food you made is bad, she will not sugar coat it. She tells it like (she thinks) it is.

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The speech pathologist, however, gave us tools and cognitive exercises to kick-start our mom’s brain back into appropriate action. We were also encouraged  to get a (paper) calendar so that our mother could anticipate her daily schedule and routine.

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The speech pathologist explained that we all need awareness (a sense of ourselves in time and space) to effectively function in the world.

 

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When our mom first started outpatient rehab she was in a wheelchair and was using a right sided hemi-walker to stand up, sit down and shuffle from place to place.  Midway through rehab, our mom started using a 4 pronged cane to walk.  We were also told to “ditch the wheelchair.”

 

When outpatient rehab (4 months) was over, the discharge advice was:  Keep walking. Walking boosts brain function.