Saturday, 16 April 2016

How Mum Keeps Sharp

I have been reading Training Your Brain for Dummies. It is very interesting. I am struck by how many of the recommended activities my mother has been doing all her life. They include

* drinking orange juice
*eating blueberries
* not drinking alcohol (we'll get to that)
*doing handcrafts (she is always doing handcrafts)
*reading constantly (she reads while doing such 'easier' handcrafts as knitting cable sweaters)
*learning languages (she reads German novels and looks up the 15 words she doesn't know)
*putting together jigsaw puzzles
*and doing other puzzles, like crosswords
*getting enough sleep
*snacking on almonds

It would probably be better if my mother drank freshly squeezed orange juice from a blender instead of the from-frozen-concentrate she has been downing for as long as I've been alive. Meanwhile, when I say my mother doesn't drink alcohol, I mean that she has a glass of wine at Thanksgiving, a glass of wine at Christmas and then..... ahhhh....summer holidays in Europe happen. After summer holidays, life goes back to normal. My positively teetotalling grandmother also made exceptions for her summer holidays, too: when she went to a resort in the Muskokas, she would drink a Tom Collins cocktail in the afternoons. The women in my family are WILD, I tell you.

There are ways in which my mother could further improve her cognitional health, if she felt that the above was not enough.

First, she could eat more fish. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are tremendously good for your brains.

Second, she could eat more walnuts Walnuts pack  as much omega-3 as you need in a day.

Third, she could drink green tea. (At this very moment, I am drinking green tea.)

Fourth, she could drink less coffee. Although initially caffeine improves your ability to memorize, this is only after 8 oz of coffee. More than 8 oz, and the benefits cease and the drawbacks kick in.

Fifth, she could cut out processed food, especially store-bought cookies. Processed food--BAD. Sugar--BAAAAAD!

Sixth, she could give herself a NEW mental challenge, like improving her Russian. Of course, it would be even newer, more challenging and nice company for me if she took up Polish instead.

That's as much as I have learned so far, but I hope to discover others. I really like these points because they don't seem all that much work--except for learning languages, that is, and perhaps the handicrafts, and the getting up and going out to exercise--which I will now do by walking through the woods to the bus stop to take a bus to Artisan Roast to buy some excellent coffee and read another Polish Muminki story.

Update: Here is a long list of brain-boosting foods.


  1. Dear Seraphic!

    This is somewhat unrelated to this post, however, I wanted to share. I participated today in my first pro-life demonstration. It went well (in a super secular country!), I got to talk to some young people with other views on abortion and felt we raised awareness in this question. It was a fantastic experience. I think pro-lifers are more accepted now than 10 years ago in many Western countries.

    Also, I was wondering what you think of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. Is it compatible with the traddies movement? They seem almost opposite in style/spirituality to me. I feel however, a longing towards both.


  2. Droga Emilko! Congratulations on your first pro-life demonstration. I am glad it was a good experience for you. I am hard-pressed to imagine that pro-lifers are more accepted now than they have been since 1969, especially as university campuses keep trying to ban pro-life clubs and as Mary Wagner and Linda Gibbons are constantly thrown in jail, but I hope that is true outside Canada.

    My only experience of Charismatic Renewal is in Poland. I'm not sure it is compatible with traditionalism as it seems very subjective and possibly even dangerous. I spoke with a young man in Poland who thought you didn't need the Church (and the magisterium) as long as you "had the Spirit." Well, that's just one guy, of course. The proper person to ask is your spiritual director, confessor or favourite priest!

    1. I've had some experience with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and it can be fruitful as long as one is cautious about discerning words, gifts, etc. Critical to that discernment is the conviction that the same Holy Spirit that guides the Magisterium will never lead an individual or group in a way that is counter to the Magisterium. Fr. Cantalamessa, longtime preacher to the papal household, has written a good deal in favor of the Renewal.

      People are not always drawn to TLM/EF and also the charismatic. In my experience it seems that some personality types prefer one, and others prefer the other. But they can coexist and mutually benefit each other. Most obviously, traddies remind CCRs about the importance of the objective, while CCRs remind traddies that God does work in and through us individually for the building up of the Body.

    2. I agree with Diva that it seems the people either tend to be attracted to one movement or the other, but not both. :)

      In my experience, the charismatic movement tends to focus quite a bit on attaining a spiritual ‘high’, which doesn't sound particularly healthy to me. (But I've never been part of the charismatic movement, so this is based pretty much on what I've seen and heard from people! I'm sure there's more to it then that.

      Some of my younger siblings are attending a summer conference at a super charismatic college nearby that’s well-known for Holy Hours that leave teens in tears of spiritual ‘ecstasy.’ The priest who is taking the group they are going with (who attended the college and plans to hold a Holy Hour of his own in a nearby church for his group instead) told my parents that the people in charge deliberately keep the kids from getting very much sleep that weekend in order to encourage them to feel that spiritual ‘high’, which skeeves me out. Honestly, it sounds borderline abusive to me.

    3. I find it's hard to define exactly what the charismatic movement is within the Catholic church -- is it just "happy-clappy" music? If so, I found a fair amount of similarity between my liturgical experiences as a child growing up in a charismatic parish, and the Masses at World Youth Day. Praying in tongues probably sounds strange to most but it doesn't take a special gift -- it's just choosing to make different sounds instead of words in prayer. Speaking in tongues, where there's an actual message being communicated and usually someone else called to translate, is much more unusual.
      Being aware of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and intentionally invoking the Holy Spirit is also quite orthodox.
      Like booklover says, I think the two biggest dangers in the charismatic movement are a tendency toward individualism/Protestantism, and mistaking emotionalism for spiritual growth. For me, those emotional experiences were part of a phase in my spiritual development. I would say the most trustworthy individuals/organizations in the charismatic movement have figured out how to temper those emotional highs with dedication to more traditional prayers (ie praying the liturgy of the hours).

    4. Oh, and as far as the pro-life movement goes -- interestingly, in the US at least, the percentage of millennials who disapprove of abortion has remained relatively constant, around 45%, while the percentage that opposes gay marriage has dropped dramatically.

    5. That skeeves me out too, booklover. While many people in charismatic circles do experience spiritual "highs" from time to time, that should not be the focus, but rather growing closer to the Lord and consequently more like Him. I would use a marriage analogy: throughout the course of a couple's relationship there are emotional "highs" (and lows, for that matter), but these aren't the focus of the relationship or the goal of it. To make such "highs" the goal of the marriage is to build on very shaky ground and probably doom it to fail. On the other hand, it would be weird if a couple *never* experienced times of closeness, deep affection, an ease in their interactions, etc.

      I grew up in a relatively traditional environment, was exposed to the CCR as a young adult, then moved to a place where there was no active CCR, so I haven't been involved in several years. In my experience, CCR revealed to me the relational dimension of my relationship with God in a way that carried me beyond just fulfilling the obligations because I wanted to be good...I began to do those things because I saw that they pleased God, whom I now loved as a Person and wanted to make happy. Perhaps this was something in my moral and spiritual development that would have happened anyway, but I'm forever grateful to CCR for facilitating that shift. (Also, the people I knew were rock solid faithful to the Church...I would have fled had it been otherwise!)

    6. When people speak "in tongues", what "tongues" are they speaking in, and what are they saying? I've read some ghost-story like stuff meant to scare the dickens out of readers, so I am curious as to whether anyone has done any series research on this.

    7. Answering my own question, this seems interesting. Naturally linguists have interested themselves in both glossolalia and xenolalia (if I have those words right!)

  3. I really hope playing a musical instrument counts.