Sunday, January 25, 2009

brain-derived neurotrophic factor

After being apart for four months, Reggie visited Memphis for the first time this weekend. He liked the city and is now rethinking his earlier decision to skip Memphis and go on to Atlanta. But either way, I will eventually have to put him on an airplane and send him home to Phoenix.

His arrival and presence (as always) elicits a kaleidoscope of emotions - from delight to frustration and back to delight again. We enjoy each other's company so much, so there is much laughter and joy. But he never stops working. I even woke up very, very late last night to find him on the phone dealing with a situation in Phoenix that apparently nobody else could solve. And as we sat in the darkened movie theatre watching Milk (a marvelous film), his cell phone delivered text message after text message after text message. I worried about the other movie-goers. I'm sure they were annoyed.

His departure will leave a void - his personality takes up so much room - but will also leave me feeling relief to be back in my own space again. I will miss him terribly. This has always been the quandary of our relationship. I always experience this low, low place during the first day or two after we part. He is an incredibly important source of solid, steady, sure reassurance of everything that I am - good and bad. He is my past and present. I am lost without him.

So, facing the sadness that will inevitably accompany his departure, I was interested to read about brain-derived neurotrophic factor today on

Using your nondominant hand to do simple chores can improve your mood and your memory; that's because the action stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that encourages the growth of neurons linked to long-term memory and mood. "When you're depressed or under stress, your brain's production of BDNF plummets," says Moses Chao, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. (One of the lesser-known effects of antidepressants, he says, is to raise the levels of BDNF.) Anything unexpected, smelling rosemary first thing in the morning, for example, can activate BDNF.

So tonight, I will brush my teeth with my left hand. And when he texts me to tell me he is safely returned to Phoenix, I will type my whole reply with my left hand.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

warning: potential sacrilege ahead

If you are super-religious and easily offended, this is not the ideal blog post for you!

Yesterday, when I was driving home, I called my sister (Lenore) for some moral support. I live in Memphis, Tennessee. My sister lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. We are both busy people, so I was pleasantly surprised when she answered the phone.

I explained to my sister that I was feeling a little overwhelmed by a combination of things and needed her to pray for me or with me. My sister did not hesitate. She asked me if I wanted her to lead the prayer. I said "yes" and she began to pray aloud. Her prayer was, as usual, very relaxed and sweet in nature. At one point she was asking God to help us each recognize that we must own our own issues and allow other people to own their issues. She said "Help us to understand and accept that their stuff is their stuff and our stuff is our stuff". She added, "I think God will know what I mean by stuff, don't you?" I answered, "Yes."

The cell phone connection was a bit shaky. She continued to pray, saying, "Please lift us up in our struggle." I heard everything except the word "struggle". I thought she said. "Please lift us up in our girdle." So I asked, "lift us up in our what?" She answered, "struggle". I said, "Oh, I thought you said girdle." I giggled. Then she giggled. Then we could not stop laughing. We both agreed that "May God lift you up in your girdle" would be a prayer that we would always use with each other in order to find the humor in any given situation.

Tonight, as I was dialing the phone to call my father to tell him this story, my sister called me to say that a friend of hers (Christopher) had improved on our prayer. He suggested that the prayer be, "May God lift you up in your bustier and support you in your girdle." I thought it was pretty funny, but I liked the original better.

But then I called my father and stepmother to tell them this story. After we shared a great laugh, my wonderful stepmother suggested that being lifted up in your girdle might be like a giant wedgie. So I think Christopher's version does win after all!!!

So, ahem ... may God lift you up in your bustier and support you in your girdle!!! (The laughter that this has generated has been a wonderful answer to the original prayer.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

ichi-Fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi

In Japan, postcards are sent with the intended arrival date of January 1st. The postcards wish the receiver a happy and prosperous new year. These cards, known as nengajo, are sent to friends and relatives. The mail delivery service is guaranteed for January 1st if the postcards are mailed before a certain date and are clearly marked as nengajo.

I love this tradition and would happily participate, but I suppose I would have trouble finding anyone who would deliver my postcards in the USA on January 1st.

There are several traditional ways to wish someone a happy new year in Japan.

"kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu" (今年もよろしくお願いします), which means "I hope for your favour again in the coming year"

"(shinnen) akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu" (新年)あけましておめでとうございます), which means "Happiness to you on the dawn (of a New Year)"

"kinga shinnen" (謹賀新年), which means "Happy New Year"

"shoshun" (初春), which is literally "early spring"

Apparently this time of year can be lucrative for a kid in Japan. Otoshidama is the custom of giving money to children at the new year. Small decorated pouches, known as pochibukuro, are used to hold the money. My family lived in Japan for 10 years. I was there for years 6-10. I don't recall getting any pouches of money!!! I figure my parents (when they read this) should immediately acquire some pochibukuro and send me my money!!!

Finally, my favorite Japanese new year tradition is hatsuyume, which is the first dream of the new year. There is a tradition of attempting to interpret the first dream of the new year, with the hope that the dream will be particularly auspicious. The best dream to have would be one that included Mt. Fuji, a hawk (taka) and an eggplant (nasubi). There are a number of theories about where this particular combination came from. Upon hearing this, I wondered if it was simply the appearance of the three items that would be very auspicious, or if the context would be important.

So, if I dream I am a hawk sitting at the top of Mt. Fuji and I soar down on the prevailing winds to a field where I begin eating an incredibly delicious eggplant, would that be more auspicious than if I dream that I am innocently eating a mediocre eggplant and am suddenly picked up in the talons of a marauding hawk who carries me to his nest on Mt. Fuji and feeds me to the baby hawks?

I'm just not sure. I don't remember what I dreamed about last night. But I will be paying attention tonight!!!!!

To all of my friends and family (and even the random reader who happens to drop by as if by accident), I hope you have a wonderful 2009. (Dad & Mom - let's get those pochibukuro in the mail right away!)

kinga shinnen!!!