Activities Galore at the Superior Community Center

So, I’m back in Superior after my Florida stint, psyched to be home. But guess what? My car’s MIA, stuck in shipping hell. Oh dear. But here’s the silver lining: while I’m carless, I stumble upon a treasure, practically in my own back yard—the Superior Community Center. Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of cool stuff for the over-60 crowd like me that I never knew about. Book clubs, Texas Hold’em games—you name it. It’s like I hit the jackpot!

As I learned during the pandemic, a “Staycation in Superior” is an awesome opportunity to explore my beautiful town!

Activities for all Age Groups

The Superior Community Center is only about 1/2 mile from my house. I love walking there, even when my car is available. Last year, I often walked over for a variety of events – open-mic night, ukulele jam, DJ Bingo, and Thursday night choir practice.

One of the many great things about this intergenerational community choir is that it’s very informal! No auditions necessary! Even though I was gone all winter, I was able to join right in again, as if I’d never left.

Activities for 60+

I decided to check what activities were on the schedule for the over 60 crowd and what a surprise! There’s such a variety and abundance of classes!

Since I’ve been home, I’ve joined the Book Club, the Fountain of Youth drop-in group, and played Texas Hold’em yesterday at the Games group.

The young woman (2nd from the left), Hannah, works at the Superior Community Center and helps facilitate many of the activities. Next to her is Carol, who was teaching Texas Hold’em. I almost didn’t go, thinking I was already a pro, but I learned a few things myself!

Fun Atmosphere

Besides the variety of activities that are being held at the Superior Community Center, it’s just a fun place to hang out.

It’s funny that I’ve been actively looking at moving to a 55+ community so that I’d be able to find new nearby friends, activities, and clubs. A couple of weeks ago, I found that so much was available at the library close to my Bradenton condo. This week, I find there’s an abundance of activities available walking distance from my Superior home.

Feeling inspired to explore what your local community center has to offer? Don’t wait! Check out the activities calendar, gather some friends or fly solo, and dive into the fun. Whether you’re into book clubs, card games, or just looking to meet new people, there’s something for everyone. So, go ahead, discover the hidden treasures of your own neighborhood, and make some unforgettable memories along the way!

Are you finding new opportunities for community? Come join us on the Carpe Diem Connections Facebook page and share your experiences!

Visit Finland: Learning about Sisu

A week or so ago, my daughter-in-law forwarded me this article about a Happiness Hack initiative sponsored by Visit Finland.

Being the Happiness expert that I am, I’d heard that Finland had won the #1 Happiest Country award for the 7th year straight. However, I hadn’t been aware that they were giving away a free trip to Helsinki for 5 lucky winners!

The challenge was to create a video describing a Happiness Hack and why we should be selected.

My submission for the Helsinki Happiness Hacks Challenge

Happiness Hacks

I was very confident about the Happiness Hack portion of this challenge. Ever since 2010, Craig’s final year, I’ve been studying happiness! I’ve created more content about Happiness than any other topic, including a series of videos asking people what makes them happy.

My first “What Makes You Happy” video

Visit Finland: Find Your Inner Finn

But why should they select me to go to Finland? What could I learn by visiting Finland myself? What could I pass on to others? I decided I needed to find out more about how Finland was winning this #1 rating in Happiness year after year.

I found Visit Finland’s 2023 Happiness Masterclass: Find Your Inner Finn. This series of 5 videos is available to everyone for free. It describes the unique aspects of the Finland that sets the country and culture apart. (By the way, I added the link for Find Your Inner Finn to the CarpeDiemDay.com Landing Page.)

Each of the 5 videos in the Masterclass were Finnspirational, doing a deeper dive into Finland’s culture, environment, and traditions. The class that I was most interested in was the third in the series about Health and Balance.

The Finnish concept of Sisu

The third class in Visit Finland’s Happiness Masterclass was titled, “Fluxing with April Rinne.” April talked about the importance of trust, embracing change, and living with uncertainty. As an Agile coach, these are all concepts I’ve taught myself. When I went to connect with April in LinkedIn, I saw that, in fact, we have many shared connections in the Agile Leadership space.

However, the Finnish concept of Sisu was new to me. April described this as “the art of inner strength.” I did more digging on Sisu and learned what an important part it plays in Finnish culture.

It sounds like the closest translation in English is resilience. Here is a video interview I did with Nic Friedman about resilience in Season 3 of my Carpe Diem Connections podcast.

This concept of Sisu or resilience is so meaningful to me and so difficult to describe. When I think about it, I’m usually on the verge of crying… not out of sympathy, but out of admiration. Showing such amazing strength in the face of adversity is a heroic trait.

Finland’s Recent Tragedy

I spent the weekend falling in love with Finland. Last night I submitted my Helsinki Happiness Hacks video on TikTok. Though I know getting selected is a huge long shot, I learned a lot, so I have loved this challenge.

Then this morning, in my daily CNN newsletter I read about the school shooting that happened in Helsinki yesterday.

I felt a wave of shock, sadness, and grief. Even the world’s Happiest Country is hit with unfathomable sadness. Of course, any loss of life is tragic, but I can think of nothing sadder than an innocent child being killed in a school shooting.

In the midst of our happiness, we’ll experience hardships, tragedies, and challenges. I have faith that Finland, thanks to sisu, will remain strong through this and other hardships. They will remain a leader in World Happiness. They will help the rest of us to “Find our Inner Finn.”

Thank you, Visit Finland, for sponsoring this initiative. Thank you for all you’re doing to spread happiness throughout the world.


The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.

Walt Disney Company

Carpe Diem: Reframing the Bucket List

Bucket lists and goals are my thing. My alter ego is “Super Carpe Diem Woman” after all! I’m all about Seizing the Day! That’s why it was a bit upsetting for me to see one of my weekly newsletters touting “The Rise of the Anti-Bucket List.”

Super Carpe Diem Woman
Super Carpe Diem Woman Leading the Walk to Defeat ALS in Honor of Craig Dunham

The first trigger was the “Anti-” prefix. I immediately wanted to write a post about how I was “Anti-Anti-Bucket Lists.” Whenever I hear anyone saying they’re Anti-anything, my devil’s advocate pipes right up, ready to argue. (Well, unless we’re talking about watching “Auntie Mame” which just happens to be on my March Bucket List.)

After reading the AARP article that originally describes the case for an Anti-Bucket List, I realized the author’s notion of “bucket list” is totally different from my own.

“My bad year had taught me a lot, and probably chief among those things is that there’s much to be said for ordinary life. So I suggest you put the bucket list in the shredder. Do what I’ve done: Create an anti-bucket list. It’s easy. Plane travel? It’s over. Anything you watch on shows like The Amazing Race or Survivor — forget it. Things that might cause stress or fear or make your back ache? Getting up too early or staying out too late? Why? Really, why?”

Stephen Randall, AARP
 

While I respect and understand the author’s point of view, I have a different opinion about two of his reasons for promoting an anti-bucket list. In my quite passionate opinion:

  1. An ordinary life is FULL of Bucket List-worthy items!
  2. We’re happier when we focus on what we want to do instead of what we will never do again.

Bucket Lists are not just about lofty adventures

A bucket list is meant to be a list of things you want to do before you die. It absolutely doesn’t need to be about travel or challenging goals. It can be about relationships, health, learning or anything! A bucket list is going to be different for every person. The key is to figure out what YOU want to do in this lifetime. Then, do it! Or move towards it. Enjoy the journey!

I executed a 60 Until 60 List the 60 weeks leading up to my 60th birthday. I treated this kind of like a Bucket List that I wanted to complete by age 60 rather than “before I die”. The whole “before I die” deadline is too uncertain. (As a project manager, I’d never accept that!)

I much prefer Yearly Projects filled with rather trivial goals designed to bring joy and happiness into my life. And when I’m happy, the people I love are happier, too.

In 2022, I had a Year of Microadventures, which turned out to be better than a Bucket List for me. Anything could be a “Microadventure.” My only rules were that I had to do something with someone else and blog about it.

Last year was my Year of Learning, which included my quest to become an AARP Benefits Badass!

My goals and Microadventures include quotidian experiences. I very much enjoy finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Reading a book, walks in the park, indulging in a Netflix series with my son – these are not typical “bucket list items.” However, by being intentional about having an experience, particularly with someone else, and writing about it, I’m creating invaluable memories.

Focus on what you want to do

Stephen Randall’s argument for an anti-bucket list is that it gives us a way to say ‘no more’ to things we don’t want to do. Sure, we shouldn’t let our friends (or our own inner-critics) guilt or pressure us into doing things we don’t really want to do!

I absolutely agree with listening to our gut when we are setting our goals, whether those be on a bucket list or a weekly to-do list. One of the greatest things about being retired is that we have full autonomy of how we choose to spend our time.

As we age, we find there are things we no longer want to do. There may be things on our bucket list that no longer seem realistic.

Randall lists traveling on a plane, things that cause us stress or fear, and getting up early or staying out late as items for his anti-bucket list.

Being self-aware of both what you want to do and what you don’t want to do with your time is awesome. However, I suggest our mood responds much more favorably to anticipating something we want to do, rather than declaring what we won’t be doing.

Rather than declaring we won’t be traveling on a plane, why not have goals to have a staycation, scope out the local farmer’s market, or invite your neighbor out for coffee at that new place on the corner?

Facing Mortality

My passion for a “Carpe Diem” Lifestyle is primarily fueled from my experience in watching Craig Dunham, a friend who died from ALS in 2010.

As he lost his ability to speak, walk or move, he kept adapting, taking pleasure in whatever he could still do. That courage and strength still fills me with such admiration. The day I realized he couldn’t pick up the phone and tell his kids he loved them, was the day I realized how very much I take for granted.

There’s an infinite list of things we will not do in our lifetime, either because we don’t have the time, the money, the ability, or simply don’t want to! Why spend any time thinking about those things?

Instead, let’s fill our days with doing the things we want to do. Whether they are big, lofty goals or simply picking up the phone to say, ‘I love you,’ let’s continue to intentionally live our best lives.

Luau 5K with US Road Running Race Club

Luau 5K at Heritage Harbor Park in Bradenton, FL

Today I ran the Luau 5K, decked out in my Hawaiian finest!

I know a 5K is not a very impressive distance, but it’s exciting for me since I’d thought my running days were over.

My Running Buddy, Bonnie

I used to run a lot. My main running buddy was my neighbor, Bonnie. We ran so many races together over the past 20 years. These included several Bolder Boulder 10Ks, the famed Bay to Breakers in California, the Denver Rock’n’Roll Marathon, the Horsetooth Half-Marathon, and countless 5Ks. In fact, in 2013, we ran a 5K every month in costume.

A year of costumed 5Ks

Running Again After Bone Density Improvement

Then, 5 years ago, I had some major back problems, including osteoporosis.

I was at risk for a vertebra fracture, so the doctors recommended against high-intensity sports like running.

However, after 5 years of AlgaeCal, my bone density improved and I’m no longer osteoporotic! (I’ll probably write some other blog post about Algaecal and my success story with that, but I don’t want to get too far off topic.)

Last Fall, I was walking with Bonnie, and told her that my back was better and I was thinking I’d be able to run 5Ks again. We remembered how much fun we’d had with our Year of Costumed 5Ks and agreed that we wanted to do something like that again.

However, I spend winters in Florida, so we couldn’t physically do a monthly event together. Bonnie suggested we each do a challenge of our choice and share photos.

US Road Running Race Club

I was excited about the idea of running again. When I searched for 5K races in Bradenton, Florida, I discovered the US Road Running Race Club! They host monthly races and (here’s the best part) they have theme-based costume contests!

Welcome Gift from the US Road Running Race Club

The club sent an unexpected Welcome card (so sweet!) and T-shirt. Race entrance fees are 50% off when you join the club and they even offer the ability to do virtual races and submit pictures on their Facebook page!

Today’s race had a theme of “Luau.” Since I didn’t bring my wide array of costumes with me from Colorado, I ordered a pink hula skirt and matching leis. It wasn’t the most creative of costumes, but I was happy with it.

And guess what? I won the costume contest!

Of course, I’m pretty sure I was the only runner who came to the event wearing a costume. My fine-tuned strategy when it comes to winning contests is to be the soul contestant.

The volunteers and workers at the race were handing out leis. (Another gold star for US Road Running Race Club!) I think the person who was in charge of the picking the winner of the costume contest was a little worried until she saw me, just before the race start.

She immediately told me I’d won the contest, gave me my medal, and took a picture of me at the front of the pack at the starting line. Instant celebrity!

Even though other people think it would be embarrassing to be the only one in costume, I embrace my inner-child.

I admit, it IS embarrassing to be the only adult in competition with kids. Luckily there were no kids who were dressed up.

It’s also awkward and embarrassing when the costume contest is settled by audience applause. Go ahead, cute little kids, steal the show!

But blissfully, I was the soul contestant and scored an easy win!

High-quality medals!

I came home with two high-quality medals – one for the Best Costume and one for finishing the Luau race.

The weather was perfect and running felt really good! The low altitude and flat terrain (along with my slow pace) made it an easy race. Five years ago I thought I’d never be able to run again. I thought I might be in constant pain. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m so grateful for today.

This was one of the highlights of the month for me and a wonderful way to start 2024.

Thank you US Road Running Race Club! Looking forward to more!

December Learning: Lucid Dreaming in Retirement

This reminds me of my recurring dream of having lots of unknown babies

Lucid Dreaming – The Final Topic in my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement

In the final month of my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement, I picked Lucid Dreaming as the topic I’d take a deeper dive into.

To be honest, I’ve been super-busy and distracted and hadn’t even picked a December learning topic when my friend, Chris, sent me a link to the Lucid Dreaming online class.  Chris, who lives in Bali, is an avid meditator, and goal-setter, himself.  He’d just completed The Mindful Guide to Lucid Dreaming class, which was available through the Insight Timer app.

I’d just arrived in Bradenton, Florida and had tested positive for Covid, upsetting my plans to visit both Chris and his mother, who was turning 90, in St. Augustine.

Since those plans were completely disrupted and I had a week of isolation and bed-rest in front of me, it turned out to be the perfect time to learn about Lucid Dreaming.

What is Lucid Dreaming?

Though I can’t be certain I’ve truly experienced it (even after having taken the class) it sounds like Lucid Dreaming is the ability to have an awareness and control your actions while dreaming.

I’ve experienced the awareness piece on occasion, but not the second half – taking conscious action during a dream.

How does the class teach you to Lucid Dream?

First, the class helps you enhance your mindfulness and your ability to control what you’re thinking.  This part was very similar to what I learned when studying meditation. (Makes sense since Insight Timer is an app that includes guidance on Mindful Meditation.)

Many of the exercises began with breathing exercises and an awareness of your conscious thoughts, including when you transition to a sleep and dream state.  It was very handy for me to be listening to this class and doing these exercises while I was feverish and in a half-asleep state already.

As you slip into this dream state and see or experience something that wouldn’t be possible, your conscious mind that’s still half there is able to register, “This is a dream. I am not really pregnant again.”  (One of my recurring dreams is that I’m pregnant yet again. In these dreams, I have lots of babies which I don’t remember having. These are undoubtedly the children resulting from all the other pregnancy dreams.)

OK, back to reality. Next time, I’ll be able to realize that that back pain is NOT about pregnancy!

Recording Your Dreams

So…what you’re supposed to do when you’re conscious enough to remember your dream is this: grab a notebook that you keep by your bed and write down your dream.  If you wait until you’re fully awake, there’s a good chance you won’t remember the dream.

When I listened to this part of the class, I thought to myself: “I’m too sick to even want to move to take the much-needed Tylenol that’s sitting on that bedside table. This will have to wait.”

A couple of weeks later, when I wasn’t so sick, I was having a not-very-interesting dream about my girlfriend group. I also had to pee. I thought, “Since I’m up anyway, I should write down my dream.”  

However, I’ve struggled with insomnia my whole life.  Even though I had to get up to pee, I was still sleepy enough that I went right back to sleep without a problem.  If I had taken the time to write my dream down in a journal, I think it would have made it difficult for me to drift back to sleep. Bottom line: I’m not doing the journaling thing.

Why learn about Lucid Dreaming?

I thought the final few lectures were the most insightful about the benefits of Lucid Dreaming.  Often we dream about things that are bothering us in real life.  If we can interpret and dig into the meaning of our dreams, we might be able to rewrite our ‘dream story.’  This, of course, might be especially useful if our dreams (or nightmares) are related to an anxiety that we need to address.

One of the most difficult times of my life was in 1997 after my brother (another ‘Chris’) died in a car accident. I had dreams every night where he was alive. Then I’d wake up and re-experience the grief of his death.  (The opposite has also happened…. Dreaming that someone has died, and the huge relief in waking up, knowing it was just a dream.)

However, when I was having the nightly dreams that my brother was alive, it became so common that in my dream, I realized it was a dream, and would think, “I don’t want to wake up. If I wake up, Chris will be dead.”

As anyone who’s been through grief knows, it can be a time of deep depression and despair.  Every morning when I’d wake up, again to the realization that Chris was dead, I would sob uncontrollably.

But one night, the dream was different. Chris was there and told me he was OK. He was his typical carefree, full of happy energy self, telling me to stop worrying.  He was so real that it felt like I was really communicating with him in the afterlife. Even after I woke up, it didn’t feel like I’d just had a dream.

Was my experience “Lucid Dreaming”?

I don’t think that experience was “lucid dreaming” because it didn’t feel like a dream.  It could have been my subconscious.  However, the experience was vivid enough that I had a different feeling going forward.  I was still sad that Chris was dead, but I had a sense of peace and a belief that he had been able to communicate with me and reassure me that he was OK. (I just wish he’d have given me a little more information about the ‘after-life’!)

Since that whole experience happened before I knew anything about “lucid dreaming,” I don’t know if it would serve as an example of how we can rewrite our dreams.  However, if you have a recurring dream that upsets you, I think the idea is to ‘day dream’ a different outcome..  maybe one that you overcome the challenge you’re facing. The next time you have the dream, your lucid dreaming skills will help you rewrite your dream to a more positive outcome.  Doing this in your dream (even in your day dream) may change your mindset and feelings while you’re awake.

Summary – Learning about Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming, like meditation, helps us develop more awareness of our minds and our consciousness. 

Dreams can give us insights into our minds.  By having a deeper awareness about our dreams, we may learn how to change the outcomes, not just of our dreams, but of our waking lives.

While I don’t intend to keep a dream journal or work much more on trying to develop my lucid dreaming skills, I’m glad I learned about this unique mind-control skill.

October Learning: Hacking Exercise in Retirement

My 2023 Year of Learning continued this month with a deeper dive on ways to hack exercise in retirement. Exercise is critical for our mental and physical health, but finding the time and discipline to do it daily can be a challenge.

As a matter of fact, this month I’ve found it a challenge to do my daily exercise routines regularly, despite being retired! I’m still laying in my bed with my laptop at 10:30am!

One of my self-imposed “rules” is that I have to do a minute of push-ups as soon as I get up, so I get those out of the way first thing! However, with no commitments on this first snowy day of the season, I’m delaying those pushups for as long as I can. And to further justify my lazy morning, I have another “rule” – to write at least one blog post a month about a focused learning project.

Writing this blog post about exercise has reminded me of its importance. It’s great that I’ve gotten into the habit of daily exercise. However, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to miss a day, here and there. In fact, I also have a rule to have at least one day (usually Sunday) to not worry about all my self-imposed rules.

Hacking Exercise for Health – Coursera Class

In the spirit of “focused learning,” I took a Coursera class: “Hacking Exercise For Health. The surprising new science of fitness“.

This was a motivating class! The short videos and assignments described different exercise hacks – ways we could most efficiently make exercise fun and easy.

Most of the class was a review for me; however, the importance of maintaining fitness and building strength are especially important as we age.

The class talked about techniques such as HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training, explaining the science behind building strength and endurance. I was surprised that strength-training can be really effective with resistance bands and by exercising using our own body-weight. Dumbbells and weight machines are not required!

If we are using weights, one of my takeaways was that the first set of reps in weight-building is the most effective. Even if we are just doing strength exercises for 5 minutes we get benefit from it.

Since I travel so often, I wanted to find a way to keep up my fitness and strength regardless of where I was. The class helped me feel much less worried about losing strength if I couldn’t get to a gym.

Strength-Building Hacks

My daily push-ups prepared me well for the challenge at the Bolder Boulder

One of the easiest strength-building hacks is just to use your own body-weight and execute exercises like push-ups, planks, lunges, and squats.

When I first started doing a 5-minute strength-building routine, I couldn’t even do one push up! But every day I tried to do one more than the day before and within a month I was able to do 20. Now I do a minute’s worth of push-ups every most mornings. I usually go at a pace of one per second, so get in 60 pushups!

I then go on to do the 5-minute plank routine that’s available on Alexa.

I sometimes add a YouTube strength routine or resistance bands.

I tried The Exercise Coach which uses “exerbotics” and two 20-minute workouts a week. Though this was a cool new way to get in strength-training, it was expensive and required me to go to a gym with the specialized machines.

Now I know that I can get in the benefits of strength-training with resistance bands and exercises I can do these anywhere. Twenty minutes, twice a week is all it takes!

Hacking Exercise by Doing What You Love

One of the best hacks for fitness is participating in sports you love.

Sports I love? My younger self would say, “I’m terrible at all sports!” PE was my worst subject. I hated it and was that kid that always got picked last for team sports.

However, as an adult, I discovered I wasn’t nearly as terrible an athlete as I’d believed. I started running at 39 and loved the races. The annual Bolder Boulder became a big tradition in our family.

Dancing, hiking, and walking are all social and other activities I love. These activities are all great for building bone density on top of keeping me fit!

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of hiking and walking and my obsession with walking at least 10,000 steps every day.

Even though I’ve given up running because of back problems, I LOVE so much about walking or hiking regularly. It’s probably been one of the best things I’ve done for my mental health. I’m usually either listening to a podcast, audiobook, or music or talking to a friend. The combination of exercise, getting outside, and socialization, are all perfect remedies for managing the stresses in my life.

And my bone density has improved! I no longer have to worry so much about a vertebra fracture, so can even do an occasional fun run! I had so much fun run/walking with my granddaughter at yesterday’s Trick-or-Trot. She doesn’t like running, but I taught her about my walk/run strategy (basically to pass the wimpy walkers in front of us.) She ended up getting 2nd place for her age group and I was 3rd place for mine!

Arvada Trick-or-Trot – I’m “Weird Barbie” and ran/walked with my granddaughter, Reneya

Summary

Getting into the habit of daily exercise has been one of the best things I could have done, not just for my fitness, but for my mental health.

It can be tough to find the motivation, but with exercise hacks you can find ways to make fitness fun. It doesn’t require a gym to build strength and fitness. Even doing a little will improve your health and your mood. As they say at Nike, “Just Do It!”

September Learning: Improving Improv in Retirement

If there’s ever a time to take ourselves less seriously and enjoy life, it’s retirement!

Like many of my monthly learning goals, Improv is a skill that I tried before and liked it well enough to think: I’d like to IMPROVe!

Since I had a bandaid on my nose, it seemed the perfect time to expose my “nerdy” silly side.

Improving Improv with Play Your Way Sane

I’d read that Improv skills were very much like the skills encouraged in the Agile community… skills to help with teamwork, communication, collaboration, and dealing with uncertainty.

I ordered the book, “Play Your Way Sane: 120 Improv-Inspired Exercises to Help You Calm Down, Stop Spiraling and Embrace Uncertainty” last December and had been waiting for the opportunity to really dive in. Each exercise was a little activity aimed to help become more spontaneous, silly, grateful, positive, and funny!

The exercises were easy and adaptable and absolutely things that didn’t require a group, but rather, exercises that would help us individually become better, healthier, human beings.

The book is split into 12 “lessons”, each with 10 “games.” The “games” are the “exercises” or “activities.” As a big game player myself, I particularly liked Lesson 3: Finding the Game. These exercises were all about finding ways to play games in every-day life. I’m quite an expert in this and have always gamified chores or different aspects of my life.

For the most part, the lessons reminded me of the importance of finding the humor in life. My natural personality is pretty “Type A” driven by lists and plans. Improv is all about spontaneity and thinking fast, but with a chill, laid-back kind of attitude.

Improving Improv at a Broomshticks Meetup

Broomshticks Imrpov Meetup is a Fun Way to Play Improv Games

Even though I’m quite an expert in doing exercises similar to those described in Play Your Way Sane, I’m nowhere close to being willing or ready to entertain an audience!

Luckily, Broomschticks Improv is a safe and easy way to simply play improv games without the pressure of performing for an audience.

This Broomfield Meetup group meets monthly and even newbies like me feel welcomed. Once again, improv really is all about just having fun and playing games!

I wish I could be as quick-witted as the experienced players. I think it’s amazing how they can so quickly snap into different personalities and accents.

Improving Improv by Playing with Friends and Family

Celebrating Fall Hat Month with my GGG Women’s Group

In the spirit of Improv Games, I always enjoy costumes, photo-booth props, and celebrating unique holidays, like Fall Hat Month. I have a closet full of dress-up clothes and accessories and love any opportunity to celebrate.

It’s also been an awesome month to play games since my son Scotty has been visiting for the past two weeks as he’s recovering from knee surgery. Game-playing is his specialty!

When my grandkids were visiting for the weekend, Scotty taught us all to play The Fishbowl Game which is a perfect example of a good improv game. Players act out different characters while their partners guess who they’re supposed to be.

Reneya playing The Fishbowl Game

For the final day of September, creative costumes paid off! Megan, Scotty, and I won a Best Dressed Team Award for the Beauty and the Beast CluedUpp Game! I’d invited my family to join me for this event months ago. They’re all pretty busy, so I was excited that Megan and Scotty were able to play with me!

Megan arrived at my house this morning in a perfect Belle costume. Scotty and I hadn’t really put much effort into our costumes. I was the French Maid Feather Duster and he was the Beast using my gorilla costume and a cutout mask. However, Megan helped us add a few accessories and we looked great!

Team Carpe Tiem wins Best Dressed in the Beauty and the Beast CluedUpp Game

Scotty really was a Beast and did the entire event on crutches! It was fun to win the Best Dressed award with our “improvised” costumes. (It really helped that hardly any other teams dressed up!)

Summary

Initially, I believed that “improv” was only for those talented people like Wayne Brady who can whip out clever lyrics and witty punchlines instantly. Improv comedy on stage is something I greatly admire but there’s no way I wanted to perform on stage.

However, after this month of focused IMPROVement, I’ve discovered that improv skills have countless everyday applications that can make our lives more fun. These skills are all about adopting a mindset that finds humor in life, and I absolutely love that!

July Learning: Trying Psilocybin in Retirement

Women’s Wellness Retreat

Psilocybin can be good for your brain!

When I started my “Year of Learning” project, I didn’t expect “psilocybin” to be on my list of something to try or even learn about!

Unlike many of my peers, I never tried “magic mushrooms” (or even pot!) in my youth. I’ve always been sort of a nerdy rule-following health nut, and was never even tempted by any kind of drugs. I remembered the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” commercial and the last thing I wanted was to fry my brain.

But for the past couple of years I’ve been really interested in Brain Health, and was amazed to learn that psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) has been proven, with proper usage, to actually be good for your brain!

Since talking to Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield on my podcast, I’ve known that building neuroplasticity in our brains is a key to preventing Alzheimer’s.

Learning that psilocybin actually builds that neuroplasticity… improving our brain health, rather than destroying it, was an incredible discovery!

Besides wanting to build neuroplasticity to prevent Alzheimers, I’ve learned that building these pathways in our brains helps us gain clarity and cognitive skills, helping us find new ways to solve problems.

How does one try psilocybin?

Despite the discoveries of the benefits of psilocybin, there is still a lot of stigma and legalities associated with its use. I live in Colorado where possession and use are decriminalized.

However, I don’t take any mind-altering substance lightly. Taking psilocybin does come with risks. I wanted to be fully informed, safe, and legal.

I got my opportunity when I found out through Facebook that one of my trusted friends, a therapist, was co-hosting a women’s wellness retreat in Manitou Springs, which included a guided plant-based medicine “journey.”

The Psilocybin Journey

The Psilocybin Journey was the original reason I signed up for this retreat. I had wanted to try psilocybin in a safe and controlled environment and, without me even seeking it out, the opportunity presented itself.

The “journey” itself, for me, was like conscious dreaming. We were in a comfortable bed with eyeshades and headphones, listening to curated music, designed to evoke different emotions and heighten the experience. For me, it did evoke a variety of emotions including grief as well as gratitude and contentment. At the same time, with eyes closed, there were the psychedelic images, shapes, and colors that seemed to flow with the music and my thoughts.

I especially appreciated the “integration session” in which the group shared their experiences with their journeys. It was wonderful to have the guidance of Heather and Monica who reassured us all of the magic of the mushroom. The “download” and neuroplasticity will continue in the coming weeks, helping us gain clarity in areas that we may have previously felt stuck.

They are passionate about removing the previous stigma associated with mushrooms and instead honoring it as plant-based medicine, designed to heal.

I’m excited to think that this acceptance and appropriate use will become more available for people over time, helping people to overcome depression and PTSD.

Sharing the experience with Megan

Megan joins me on the Manitou Springs Moon Magic Journey

It’s funny how this memorable weekend materialized. I’m quite logical so don’t talk too much about ‘manifestations’ or anything too ‘woo woo.’ However, I do believe in being intentional about living our dreams.

One of my primary intentions is to spend time with the people I love.. to share new and memorable experiences and adventures with them. I don’t often get the opportunity to have a 1:1 adventure with my daughter, Megan. She’s married with two kids of her own so her priority, of course, is her own family. I felt so lucky and excited that she was able to join me on this special women’s weekend! She even drove us (no hands!) down to Manitou Springs in her new Tesla!

Self-Driving “EV” drives us to Manitou Springs

Indulging in a Women’s Retreat

Besides the adventure of trying psilocybin for the first time, there were so many other memorable moments throughout the weekend.

I’ve never splurged on a “retreat” before. It always felt too indulgent. But this is the time of life to try things I’ve never done before… not just psilocybin, but also treating myself to a luxury weekend. I’m so glad I did!

Admittedly, yoga is one of my least favorite activities. It seems to be the main attraction at most women’s wellness retreats. At this retreat, the main attraction, of course, was the psilocybin journey, but an optional pre-journey yoga class was offered.

Wanting to take advantage of everything offered, I joined, and was, once again, surprised at how the experience exceeded expectations. The beauty of the studio with the magnificent view inspired awe with every stretch. The yoga instructor repeatedly reminded us that there were no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ and put my over-thinking mind at ease.

Each meal was prepared so beautifully, full of healthy, colorful deliciousness. There was ritual and sharing and a feeling of tribal sisterhood throughout the weekend.

On our final night, we had a surprise full-moon ceremony at the gorgeous Garden of the Gods (Goddesses!) How wonderful that the park was open at night!

As we stood together, hand in hand, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love filled my soul. Maybe it was the mushrooms building the new pathways in my brain. I felt the presence of past spirits, the moon, the sisterhood, the wind, the magnificent universe.. and God. Maybe I’ve become more woo-woo after all. It was magical.

Memory and Movies

Coursera Class: Understanding Memory through Movies

This month in my Year of Learning, I’ve been focusing on Memory. It’s been enlightening and interesting, and … well, hopefully, memorable!

I enrolled in the Coursera Class: Understanding Memory: Explaining the Psychology of Memory through Movies offered by Wesleyan University and taught by John G. Seamon. By the way, Seamon has a book available with the same content.

John G. Seamon does video lectures in the Coursera Class about Understanding Memory

This has been one of my favorite Coursera classes. Each lecture highlights a movie. Seamon gives an overview of the plot and then explains concepts from the movie that help us learn more about how our memory works.

I’ve seen many of the movies that are from the course, and it’s been super-interesting to me to dig deeper into the psychology of the characters and the plot and for Seamon to help us understand what’s realistic and what’s not.

First Lecture: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film:Fifty First Dates

In the first lecture, Seamon gives us an example of how the movies we see may influence what we believe and affect our brains in unexpected ways.

He showed us clips from the movie, 50 First Dates, in which Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore), suffers from a type of amnesia that she gets as a result of a car accident. Each day when she wakes up she can only remember her life up until the day of the accident (which she doesn’t remember.)

She creates new memories only for a day, but she loses those memories at night when she goes to sleep.

We learn in this first lecture that amnesia doesn’t really work this way.

If Lucy’s brain damage were severe enough to stop her from making lasting memories, she would find it hard to remember anything new for more than a few minutes. 

Lucy would be able to follow short commercials on television. But longer stories would leave her baffled and confused, as she would forget earlier scenes.

Lecture 1: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film: 50 First Dates

However, shortly after the film came out, there was a patient (known as FL) who experienced a similar type of amnesia as Lucy. The doctors were baffled because the brain scans did not indicate any damage that would cause this amnesia, but also didn’t think FL was faking her amnesia.

They discovered that FL’s favorite actress was Drew Barrymore and that she had seen the movie, Fifty First Dates, before her accident.

The researchers surmised that FL was experiencing amnesia, but it was functional not organic amnesia. The origin of each type of amnesia is different. Functional amnesia has a psychological origin, while organic amnesia has a biological basis.

Lecture 1: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film: 50 First Dates
Amnesia can be either Functional (psychological) or Organic (biological)

Movies and other media affect our beliefs and our brains

I found it incredible that a movie could affect someone’s psyche enough that it could create functional amnesia. I’m finding that there is so much more that might affect our brains than I realized. And, in turn, our brains and what we think, affects our health – mental and physical!

News, social media, music, and movies will influence our beliefs and our brains!

Summary

  • Coursera’s class about Memory and Movies is very interesting and informative!
  • There are two types of amnesia: functional (psychological) and organic (biological).
  • Movies (and other media) can influence us into believing a false reality.

Memory Improvement Podcast Binge: Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik

Listening to Podcasts for Learning

My 2023 Project is to do more focused learning, picking a new topic each month. The 3 topics for the first quarter of 2023 were Purpose, Blogging, and Taxes, specifically in retirement.

For April, my primary topic is “Memory Improvement.” (Stay tuned for my end-of-month summary post.)

One of the awesome ways we have of learning in this modern era is by listening to podcasts. Each month, as my primary topic has changed, I’ve searched for podcasts related to my primary topic. (By the way, listening to podcasts while doing my daily walk, has been a great way to keep me motivated to always get those 10K+ steps in.)

When April rolled in, I searched for podcasts having to do with Memory Improvement.

I’ve always been pretty good at memorization and some of the podcasts are specifically designed to help learn and practice memorization techniques. For example, a few years ago, I learned 100 digits of Pi, and this month, I’m learning about the 46 US Presidents (which is also helping me learn more about US History.)

Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik

Even though memorization skills are handy, what I like about the Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik podcast is that the topics he covers are all about Brain Health which is a lot more than memorization skills.

I’ve been so interested in Brain Health that after doing the “Napkin Test” with Richard Leider, I discovered that my “purpose” was to “Have a healthy mind and help others with brain health.” This is exactly what Jim Kwik is doing with his books, podcasts, and coaching!

At the end of each podcast episode, Kwik encourages his readers to leave a review about what they learned. Since I’m always walking while I’m listening, I don’t have a very handy way of doing that, but I’m going to summarize some of my takeaways.

Brain Health Takeaways from the podcasts

  1. Having a positive attitude about aging is one of the most important things we can do to maintain a healthy brain. With all we are learning about brain health, scientists are finding that are brains can continue to improve throughout our life.
  2. From 314: Lessons From The World’s Longest Study on Happiness with Dr. Robert Waldinger: Relationships are key to mental health. We need to have people we can trust and confide in who will listen to us and help us “destress” at the end of the day.
  3. MEDSRX Acronym to help remember healthy brain habits: Meditation, Exercise, Diet, Sleep, Relationships, Xtra!
  4. From 311: Simple Ways To Get Your Daily Brain Nutrition with Maria Shriver and Patrick Schwarzenegger I learned about Mosh Bars, a health food bar that I want to give a try.
  5. From 326: Revitalizing Your Brain: Unlocking the Power of Mitochondria with Dr. John Lieurance I learned that Dr. Lieurance practices in Sarasota! He’s doing exciting work with regenerative medicine.

Next steps

There’s a lot left to explore in this area and I’m excited to keep learning! Besides the many podcast episodes I have yet to listen to, I also want to check out Kwik’s books and classes.

Kwik’s podcast doesn’t have ads, and he depends on listeners for reviews and to spread the word, so I wanted to leave this blog post. I’m very impressed with all of his podcasts. They’re interesting and he has a lot of high-profile, trustworthy guests.

Brain health is an important topic at any age, but especially can affect those of us who are in our 60’s and worried about the possibility of decline. I highly encourage anyone who wants to maintain a healthy brain to check out Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik.