Eighteen years ago I lost my husband in a hunting accident. I had four children, three of whom were under 14, and I had just started working for a local weekly newspaper the week before his death doing cut and paste ads and layout.
Although I had college credits, I did not have a degree, nor any education in design or experience in advertising, or with newspapers. To make a long story short, I took a small portion of the insurance money and purchased a computer, teaching myself graphic design and layout. It came in handy when two employees sabotaged the newspaper's new computers when they were fired, and the paper was due to go to print that day. They underestimated my ability to get it out - but I did!
After a couple years of learning behind-the-scenes of newspaper publishing, and because I saw people were influencing the owner's editorial and paper content toward their personal agendas, I decided to go out on my own and start my own weekly newspaper - one that was meant to inform and help the community, and not influence policy. I informed my employer of my intentions, and assured him I would not take his advertisers. I wanted to be above board with him (and because I kept my word we remain friends today).
With the help of a couple friends, I ran the paper out of my home for the first year, and it was successful, and popular. I then moved to a small office. Unfortunately, even though I did the majority of the work myself print newspapers were becoming dinosaurs and financially it became too much, so I changed gears.
I never thought of the closing of the paper as a failure. It was a free paper, and most people at the beginning didn't give me a month before I would fold. I never let someone tell me I couldn’t do something, it just spurred me on to prove them wrong.
I had to earn my acceptance into the Michigan Press Association, and I was able to make some significant changes in the community, expose graft and corruption in the local landfill, and save some jobs by getting people together to mediate instead of argue.
My tenure as a newspaper publisher may have only been four years, but it was the most gratifying time in my life. I learned I could succeed at anything if I wanted it badly enough. I set a goal, and attained it. It brought me the confidence I needed to become an entrepreneur in other ventures, and gave me the confidence to strike out and pursue one of my life’s passions, to become a writer.Life is comprised of challenges, and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If my husband hadn’t died I may never have had the confidence, or the funding, to strike out on my own. It may be a cliché, but for every door that closes another one opens. You just have to be ready to walk through that door.
I am of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with recreational use of marijuana. I think is is much like the use of alcohol, in moderation occasional use of cannabis is fine. As with any "soft" drug, which includes alcohol, the key is not carrying it to excess or dependency.
There is, however, the issue of usage by minors that should be brought out and examined. Educating your children on the evils or benefits of marijuana use is not limited to adult experiences, but should be done from the vantage point of real, solid evidence. Not only is it damaging to the lungs, it is damaging to the brain.
An interesting study was reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicating convincing evidence has been found to indicate adolescents’ chronic use of marijuana can damage brain cells and slow down their mental and memorization capabilities. Chronic marijuana use before a youth’s 15th birthday can contribute to a long list of chronic health problems and an elevated risk of neuro-psychological problems.
Marijuana is the most common non-prescription drug used by adolescents, and it blocks the brain’s activity level, putting it into a lower state of consciousness. Each year, 100,000 teens are treated for marijuana dependence, and the number is rising while the age they start to smoke it is decreasing. Teens who smoke marijuana heavily experience much the same symptoms of withdrawal as users of nicotine.
Those who regularly use marijuana often develop breathing problems much like a regular smoker does – chronic cough and wheeze. The same chemicals that are harmful in tobacco (THC or tetrahydrocannabinal) are present in marijuana, and the carbon monoxide levels absorbed by marijuana users is three to five times greater than that among tobacco smokers. In addition, behavior exhibited by introducing THC to the brain are similar to those demonstrated by alcohol consumption and abuse.
Because the brains of youth under 20 are still developing and immature, researchers have found that early use of marijuana causes lasting delays in cognitive function - especially in those chronic users under 15. Youths are especially fragile to the neurotoxin effects of cannabis, which leads to lessened mental flexibility and poor memory function.
The study was conducted using 104 chronic marijuana users, and the goal was to determine whether early exposure to marijuana could cause damage to a teen’s developing brain. Among the subjects, 49 started smoking marijuana before they were 15 (early-onset users who averaged 10.9 years of use), and 55 didn’t start until after they were 15 (late-onset users who averaged 8.7 years of use). A control group of 44 teens that did not use marijuana was also studied.
Each subject was asked to participate in brain exercises designed to gauge the neurological impact of early cannabis use. There was no significant IQ level difference, but early marijuana users did poorly in areas that involved cognitive function, concentration, coordination and endurance. The early-onset group made more mistakes, and had trouble completing tasks in categories that related to card-sorting. The scorecard of non-users and late starter marijuana users did not show any significant difference.
The study concluded that exposure to regular use of marijuana while the brain is still forming, prior to age 15, is indeed damaging to the overall mental health, and the effects can have lasting effects throughout life.
It is still unclear if moderate marijuana use in adult life poses any long-term neurological harm, but the evidence is growing that chronic use before the age of 15 definitely poses a problem in memorizing and cognitive functions. This is what you need to tell your children.
Have you heard of the circadian rhythm, or your circadian clock? It’s our body clock, located in the hypothalamus of the brain. It is important in determining sleep patterns and is important in giving us our sleep/wake cycle that keeps our body and mind rested and energized.
Our circadian rhythm is set to a roughly 24-hour cycle, and is trained to go by external cues, like darkness and sunrise. For this reason, people on the night shift have trouble adjusting their bodies to sleep during the day, or we have trouble getting it together when the seasons change.
Technically, when the sun starts to set it triggers a production of the hormone melatonin in our brains that makes us drowsy. When the sun comes up the body stops making the melatonin and we are feeling ready to tackle the day. When these cycles are disrupted our sleep is disrupted, and that effects how we focus, how we perform our daily jobs, and how we learn and remember. We have what most would call “brain fog.”
NASA scientists have tested dawn-dusk simulation and found the simulators can help to maintain the body’s natural cycles in order to keep our energy levels and mental acuity up, which results in our overall wellness. They use it to regulate an astronaut’s sleep patterns through the use of a “narrow” wave of blue light to naturally assist the body’s internal clock.
Turning a blue light on for 30-60 minutes in the evening delays the production of pineal melatonin so the body can remain more alert in the evening hours and have a more restful sleep. This is very beneficial for older adults, who tend to want to go to sleep earlier but wake up several hours during the night.
For more information, check out this YouTube video:
Those with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome tend to be energized until late at night and then have trouble waking up. If they use the blue light in the morning, upon waking, it allows them to be more alert in the morning, and for sleep earlier in the evening.
According to research conducted at Harvard Medical School, light-sensitive cells in the retina of the eye, thought to have nothing to do with vision, “boast extensions that reach deep into the brain to the hypothalamus, the location of the body’s internal clock. These specialized cells seem to convert the perception of blue light from the spectrum of natural summer daylight into chemicals such as melatonin (produced by the pineal gland), which change the brain’s “clock settings” and support alertness.”
Since there is less daylight in most parts of the country in the winter, and artificial indoor lighting does not help, the short wavelength of blue light does not hit the retina and throws the body clock off. Blue light therapy can be very beneficial to get your body back in sync with your normal routine.
Currently the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Harvard sleep medicine researchers are conducting a multi-year trial at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston to define more specifically how blue light therapy affects sleep patterns by comparison with other colors of visible light. For more information on Harvard’s dawn-dusk simulation research using blue light, see the report “When light has you singing the blues: Blue light resets body rhythms for sounder sleep, higher alertness,” from the Harvard Gazette.Note: Blue light is considered safe, but it is recommended that people with any type of eye condition or chronic conditions that could affect sight, such as Type 2 diabetes, consult their ophthalmologist before undertaking any form of light therapy. This is because damaged eyes may not have healthy mechanisms in place that protect the eye from bright light—even sunlight from a bright day.
Being an baby-boomer I haven’t gotten much into video games, although my kids all had them. I viewed that as a waste of time, and thought the kids needed to get out more and use their creativity to find ways to entertain them and get some exercise. If truth be told I never got past the first level on Donkey Kong. I still remember when Pong came out (it was a lot of fun then). Now I go to visit my children and grandchildren and even the youngest ones are playing video games.
They finally talked me into playing with them - although they started me out slowly, like with games I do enjoy (Family Feud, Jeopardy and brain games I know I probably beat them at). Once I got into the hang of the controls they wanted to get me into something they could actually compete with me on - so we decided on bowling with the Wii.
I was amazed at how realistic it is, and you don’t even have to leave your living room. The Wii games are designed for family entertainment, and I discovered later they don’t have any violent games in their collection. Now this is an entertainment system I can really get into!
Scientist have always known that video games are good for hand/eye coordination, and can be used to build memory and self-image. They are now becoming interactive, so there are health benefits involved as well (beyond the obvious brain exercises). Now they are good for the body and the mind.
The Wii is different from Playstation or Xbox. It not have the high tech graphics, blood or death of most video games. They can be geared for any age, and you have to actually get up and move for them to work. With the bowling game you actually turn your game room into a bowling alley, aiming the controller toward the screen as the ball rolls down the alley on screen. If you curve your hand you curve your ball. It really does give you a workout!
With obesity being a major health concern for people of all ages, the Wii can be used as a fun way to get healthy. It’s so good that many school systems throughout the country have started to utilize the gaming system in order to increase activity level and heart rate. Hospitals and nursing homes are also starting to implement the games as a part of low impact and strength training exercises for rehabilitation patients.
The Nintendo Wii is more than just a game system. It supports physical activity, family bonding, learning, and healthy living. On the days when the weather is bad, and you can’t get out and enjoy the outdoors, a heart-pumping game of Wii will get your brain, and your body, revved up and ready to go.Now that they’ve got me hooked, I am always ready for some video game fun - and I found that I can outbowl them as much as I can outsmart them! Getting old is getting more fun all the time!