Archive for August, 2009

The Joy of Reading

   “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” – Joseph Addison

  It was a lazy Saturday afternoon and I looked up from the sofa in our den at the bookshelves. I was curious – just how many books do we have in the entire house?

     The answer was 545…in seven different rooms. (Oops! Just found another. The count is now 546.)

     They include Bibles, baseball books, paperbacks and old hard-covers, as well as children’s books that have lasted generations. (OK, Alice in Wonderland has lasted for generations; The Turkey that Ate My Father does not qualify.)

     Other authors on the shelves include J.D. Salinger, Frank McCourt, Bernard Malamud, Mark Twain, Nora Ephron, P.D. James, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Parker, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Roth, Harper Lee, Charles Shultz, Dr. Seuss and Woodward & Bernstein.

     I have always loved to read, and I have my first-grade teacher Mrs. Hazel – and my parents – to thank.

     I was born in southern Florida when there were no public kindergartens, so the first time I entered school I was six and in first grade. The first word we learned was “clock.” The letters C-L-O-C-K were placed right under…guess what? Two points for everyone who guessed a certain round object that tells time.

     When I got home I was so excited, I went into my sister Sharon’s room and stood over her crib. I taught her to say ‘clock’ and spelled it for her. Family lore has it that later on Sharon talked so much everyone wished I’d never been her tutor. (Just kidding, Sharon.) But my parents also read to us on a regular basis, and that, I’m sure, is the reason all of us love reading.

     I can’t read as much as I have in the past – particularly if the book is long, long-winded or complicated, because I often forget what happened in the chapter before. But I try to overcome that obstacle by reading fun detective stories and those which are fun and engaging. A dear friend recently sent me a book of short stories, which was a real hit. Others have recommended audio books, but to me, it doesn’t seem real unless you actually turn the pages and look at the written word.

     The good news is, I not only love books, but reading is a great workout for the brain – for everyone. Reading is a lot like mental exercise, with the added benefit that it’s also enjoyable. Other benefits of reading include:

  • Using your imagination.
  • Learning new things.
  • Gaining different perspectives.
  • Expanding your vocabulary.
  • And, if you want, improving your own writing skills.
  • Finally, in my case, I believe my love of reading led to my love of writing, which led me into careers in journalism and public relations.

     I was an avid reader as a child, but I often worry whether children spend enough time reading at home these days, or having parents, siblings or friends available to read to them. Many families don’t have time or resources for regular reading, and often classrooms are so full there’s little time for individual attention.

      The good news is there are many efforts to help. The local YMCA, for instance, sponsors a reading program, and the president of my husband’s company has encouraged his team to read to needy students. Finally, our local library system has strong literacy programs – and they’re all free.

     If you have the time, read to a child. You won’t regret it. And it could change their lives – and yours – forever.


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     As you know, the goal for my blog – and my everyday activities – is to inspire me and others to “Live Life to the Fullest.”

     My first journal was ‘A Beautiful Day’.  It was that day that made me decide to celebrate life rather than mourn my diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  It also prompted me to write a serious of articles that focus on life and living with a positive attitude.

     I plan to continue to write the traditional articles that hopefully inspire others (and help me use my brain!), but also would like to include other beautiful thoughts, moments, joys and more from time to time. I also thought readers might appreciate occasional updates on how I’m doing, recent family activities, updates from doctors’ visits, etc.

     So, here’s a quick summary:

     Overall, I am doing very well and feel good. I do especially well when I’m home, when I am with friends and family, and when I’ve had the chance to take my daily nap.

     I won’t kid you, however. There are times I feel frustrated, like when I put something away and can’t remember — even minutes later — where it went. Or, when I had a great idea and then lost it.

     The other challenge is that I tend to take on too much or I find myself in a state of confusion. For instance, I recently got lost coming home from my doctor’s office. I was so stressed I didn’t even think to call Greg and have him come get me. I finally made it home myself, but that night and the next I literally did not sleep a wink. 

     On the upside, I have lots of friends – and family members – who help and support me. I also exercise regularly (the most important thing you can do to keep the brain healthy because it generates significant blood circulation.) I also try to keep active — planning lunch dates, shopping and trying new things, like making bead necklaces and other crafts.

     Greg and I also have kept busy this spring and summer, planning a 27th anniversary party, going to the beach and, just recently, a trip to the mountains. Another special activity was a reunion of my sisters and cousins to celebrate my 50th birthday.

       On the health front, I recently saw my doctor at Duke, and heard the good news that I do not have the gene that causes Alzheimer’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t have Alzheimer’s, but it does ensure that our children won’t inherit it.

       I also read an inspirational story on the local Alzheimer’s Association e-newsletter, and made contact with the staff there. They also recognize the importance of a positive approach – especially for early-onset patients – and they have asked me to make speeches to various groups as appropriate.

      Most importantly, I continue to do everything possible to focus on the positive and do everything possible to stay healthy. My sister, who is a statistician, did some research and said that having a positive attitude doesn’t make you live longer, but it definitely makes a difference in quality of life.

                And that’s what makes ‘Living Life to the Fullest’ possible for everyone.

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