“What A Glorious Feeling, I’m Happy Again”

Whenever I hear “Brown Eyed Girl” I’m instantly back in Richmond, Virginia. It’s 1968, and I’m at a bar mitzvah in the JCC Activity Room, dancing with a boy for the very first time. There’s a visceral response – excitement, happiness, plans for our upcoming wedding …

My point is, when you hear music, especially music from a critical point in your past, it evokes powerful emotions and memories – more powerful than you might think. In fact, what we may only see as a familiar song from our early teens and adulthood could in fact be a bridge back to connection for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Guys and Dolls are Singing in the Rain at Juniper Senior Living Communities

A few months ago, I reached out to Katie Kensinger, Social Media, Sales, and Marketing Director at Juniper Senior Living Communities in State College, PA. Through Music Theater International’s (MTI) “Broadway Senior” pilot program, Katie and the Juniper team have produced five musicals at Juniper communities, including popular titles such as “Singin’ in the Rain, Senior” and “Guys and Dolls, Senior.”

“It’s transformative – an opportunity to celebrate who they are now, to have fun, and to show what they’re capable of,” Kensinger says. Performing in front of small audiences of other residents, the actors, whose average age was 87, “saw themselves differently.”

For some, it was not just an opportunity to see themselves differently, but to see themselves again.

If you were to attend a Broadway Senior production, you would not be able to tell which actors were living with dementia.


“Residents who participated in the Broadway Senior program became more engaged overall in community life, and this engagement continued even after the program ended. This was true for those residing in assisted living (personal care), skilled nursing, and memory care.”

In fact, she added, those residents in memory care, “have been full participants in the Broadway Senior program. Some have played leading roles, while others have acted in supporting roles or have sung in the ensemble. If you were to attend a Broadway Senior production, you would not be able to tell which actors were living with dementia.”

MUSIC & MEMORY® Personalized Playlist Program Improves Quality of Life for Patients with Dementia

MUSIC & MEMORY®, another program that Juniper uses in its memory care communities, helps individuals with a wide range of cognitive and physical conditions to “engage with the world, ease pain, and reclaim their humanity” through the use of personalized music playlists.

“People living with dementia or some type of cognitive or physical limitation can experience significant stress and anxiety” says Justin Russo, MUSIC & MEMORY® Program Director. “Offering them a playlist of their favorite music can help to focus their attention on something that’s recognizable, which reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed and confused. They’re better able to understand what’s happening, and they’re better able to relate to their caregiver because it’s a comfortable place for them.

“MUSIC & MEMORY® trains healthcare and community professionals to create favorite music playlists for the people they support.” Russo says. “We encourage staff to work one-to-one with participants to discover their musical preferences, favorite pieces and performing artists, with the goal of creating a 10-25 song playlist. For people who have trouble communicating, staff are advised to observe body language and find out as much as they can from other sources, particularly family and friends, about the individual’s background, which takes time but is extremely rewarding. (Download a copy of MUSIC & MEMORY®’s “How To Create A Personalized Playlist for a Loved One at Home” here.)

“While the music gives them joy in the moment, there’s also a carryover effect right after the music session, sometimes as long as 30-45 minutes, where the participant has more access to themselves, allowing them to converse, socialize and be more present for family visits and medical appointments.”

Personalized music therapy can also reduce the use of psychoactive drugs. In a 3-year study published in the Journal for Post-acute and Long-term Care Medicine (JAMDA) researchers from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis found that personalized music is associated with a reduction in the amount of antipsychotic medication taken by nursing home residents and fewer distressed behaviors. 

“There is Still a Self to Be Called Upon … and Only Music Can Do the Calling”

“Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music,” said Dr. Oliver Sacks, former professor of Neurology at Columbia University and author of the book, Musicophilia. “Once one has seen such responses, one knows that there is still a self to be called upon, even if music, and only music, can do the calling.”

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

Oliver Sacks, M.D.

Music can trigger whole regions to communicate, according to a release in Science Daily. “By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network, and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functionality and connectivity. … Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”

“Like Having Her Dad Back Again”

Both Kensinger and Russo have witnessed remarkable results with both the “Broadway Senior” and the MUSIC & MEMORY® programs. “Anecdotally,” Kensinger said, “associates in our memory care buildings observed that the “Broadway Senior” actors demonstrated improved word finding and were generally more social while they were participating in the program. In one of our productions, the actor cast in the leading role had a dementia diagnosis. Over the years he had been very involved with the local community theatre but hadn’t performed in quite some time. When he performed in Broadway Senior, his daughter shared with us that it was like having her dad “back” again – he came to life onstage, was vibrant and joking.”

When he performed in Broadway Senior, his daughter shared with us that it was like having her dad “back” again.

Katie Kensinger

“The therapeutic benefits of music are well-documented, and the effects of music can be quite dramatic. Quite simply, music enhances our quality of life in a way that is restorative of identity and connection to others. And this is true for people with dementia. At present, there is no cure for dementia. And so our goal for the person we are caring for cannot be a cure. Instead, as with any terminal illness, we strive to do everything we can to help them have as much comfort, as much pleasure, as much meaning, as much wellbeing in their days as possible.

“People with dementia are really no different than the rest of us,” Russo added, “They may have fewer options, but the goals are the same.”


Dementia is an umbrella term to describe the disorder that results from brain disease or injury marked by memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.

Alive Inside is available for rent or purchase and can be viewed on Amazon Prime and other streaming sites

According to Drew H. Cohen, President & CEO of Music Theatre International, the organization is currently conducting further studies to better understand the specific needs of senior living communities before finalizing “Broadway Senior” musical materials and making them available for licensing.

The MUSIC & MEMORY® program was started in 2016.

I did not marry the boy at the JCC. I found someone much better and the first song we danced to was Layla. xo kas

“Do ya feel lucky?” Investing after Retirement

It’s the third day of a NEW YEAR (2022) and over the past week or so I’ve wished a lot of people “good health and good fortune in the coming year.” While I have to leave the health part up to Dr. Fauci and his friends (whose predictions seem to be less guaranteed than any other bet you can make these days), I do know an expert who can help you with the fortune part.

In part two of our series, “Financial Planning for Your Retirement: How to Quit the Rat Race but Keep the Cheese,” I shared your questions about investing after retirement with Fred Dawson ChFC, CLU, Wealth Manager and President of Bassett, Dawson and Foy, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware (see Part One here). With more than 30 years of comprehensive wealth management experience, Fred is dedicated to being a trusted advisor, especially to successful women.

Wondering how to keep your cheese and maybe even make it grow during the coming year? Read on …

NYD: After I’ve saved for retirement, how do I spend that money? Do I need to make a budget to know exactly what I will spend? Does the money go into my bank account?

FD: Even though a budget can be a chore, it certainly gives you peace of mind knowing that you have recognized all the anticipated expenses and you’re going to enjoy being retired, not worrying about money! You carefully spend that money on things you NEED first. You then have the “luxury” of considering purchasing “wants.” If you do not “control” your money, your money will end up “controlling you!” If you know you’ve met all your monthly expenses and have some left over, you can consider saving/investing more for future goals (special vacations, trips, gifts, supporting your favorite charity, etc.). My concern is that if you do not monitor your money carefully, any excess might get “frittered away.”

(Start budgeting and planning. Download your “Monthly Expense Sheet” here)

NYD: How do I know how to invest my retirement savings?

A good man always knows his limitations.

Dirty Harry

FD: Like my favorite movie actor’s character “Dirty Harry” (Clint Eastwood) said profoundly, “A good man always knows his limitations.” Investing money is not for the unexperienced, untrained, faint of heart person. There are so many things to invest in, with many things that could go wrong! Some are guaranteed with guarantees that are usually quite low, and some have no guarantees whatsoever but offer good returns (of course with higher risk)! Yes, you could even lose your principal very easily by investing without complete due diligence in understanding the good, the bad and the ugly! (Thanks again, Harry!)

I utilize a questionnaire not only to assess various risk parameters, but it offers an amazing opportunity to discuss “what is risk?” I find that people nearing retirement are not looking for the “thrill of victory nor the agony of defeat.” A professional financial advisor that focuses on your best interests should be part of your retirement team. There are many things that a competent financial advisor needs to know before any recommendations are made. This is definitely not the time to “go it alone!”

Of course, it is important to ask any advisor you are considering how they get paid, how much and how often! Also keep in mind that the “low-cost provider” may not be the best choice if their lone attribute is “we’re cheap!” (YIKES!) Last point, if you are sick, you go see a doctor. Most of us don’t try to diagnose and treat our own health conditions. Your financial health is just as important, don’t you think?

NYD: Can you explain annuities – what to know and watch out for?

FD: Annuities can be an excellent consideration, but like “all things in moderation,” I would not put all my eggs in any one basket. Most annuities (lump sums) are not liquid in the earlier years as the insurance company will trigger the “deferred contingent sales charge” if you remove more than the allotted monthly amount. Fixed annuities merely turn a lump sum into an income stream (aka pension) so that the lump sum is never available, just the monthly income. Some annuities have the ability to invest in stock and bond portfolios while offering you the ability to “capture” some of the upside of the market, but when the market goes down, the annuity guarantees that you will earn “0”….not say, lose -10% (or more?) should the market tumble from time to time. Those are called Indexed Annuities.

Selecting the right payout is also very important. For example, if you are not concerned about leaving income or assets to anyone else, then you can take the highest monthly payout for your life only. If you have a spouse and want to leave income for them, then you would select another option that would payout less, but would continue to pay some amount you select to your spouse.

The more I learn about annuities the more I realize they are very complex financial instruments. Just like there are carpenters out there that carry around a hammer as they see that everything is a “nail.” Some advisors are merely insurance salesman and the only thing they have to offer is life insurance products like annuities and are not licensed to even speak about other investment vehicles. One size does not fit all! Harry didn’t say that, I did!

NYD: What about taxes in retirement? Any tips?

FD: Everyone hates taxes except our government! Another member of your team could be your accountant/tax preparer. After a careful examination of your income sources and assets, your accountant would be better consulted on those issues. Even though one of our past presidents said he was going to make the tax system “fairer and simpler” it didn’t happen.

In some recent zoom meeting about pending tax legislation, it’s only going to get more complicated and with increasing debt, Uncle Sam will be looking for more ways to get into your pockets. Uncle wants everyone to pay their fair share, only nobody has shown me what defines fair. I’m reminded almost daily “it’s not what you make that is so important, it’s what you get to keep!”

NYD: Where can your money make money? At a certain age, risk versus reward needs to be considered. I believe we are now taxed 50% on our Social Security – will they be able to tax the other half? What do you think of diversifying banked money into silver, gold, etc?

FD: When a married couple files a joint return, if they exceed $32,000 modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), then 50% of Social Security will be included in your taxable income. If you exceed $44,000 MAGI then 85% of your Social Security will be included in your taxable income. It’s different if you are single. Will they be able to tax the other half is anyone’s guess. We are taxed at the “pleasure” of the IRS.

Most people need some amount of prudent risk in their portfolios. I’m not a big proponent of investing in silver and gold as they are not good long-term investments. They will sometimes respond favorably to inflation or a crisis somewhere in the world, and spike accordingly and usually briefly. What some folks ignore is if you invest in gold, how do you spend it? Do you take your gold bars to the store with hack saw? Or do you take your gold coins to the “automat?” It sounds good but not very practical.

I believe there are opportunities to invest in the stock market as long as you are not attempting to do it yourself! There are quality mutual funds and private portfolio money managers out there that should be considered as they each have strategies, philosophies, disciplines that the “do it yourselfer” usually does not have. That said, the “do it yourselfer” will get lucky occasionally. So then you need to ask yourself; do you feel lucky or smart?

President of Bassett, Dawson & Foy, Inc., Fred Dawson entered the world of financial planning in 1980. He has earned the professional designations Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). A frequent columnist for the “Ask the Experts” section of The News Journal (Delaware) and other local, national and international publications, Fred can often be heard on both radio and national television.

Financial Planning for Your Retirement: How to Quit the Rat Race but Keep the Cheese

You’ve probably heard it a few times by now – one more thing the COVID-19 pandemic has affected is the number of adults in the United States who have retired. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent official labor force data, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older said they were out of the labor force due to retirement in the third quarter of 2021. By contrast, in the third quarter of 2019 (before the onset of the pandemic) 48.1% of those adults were retired. In the third quarter of 2021 66.9% of 65- to 74-year-olds were retired, compared with 64.0% in the same quarter of 2019.

Now, when you consider that “retire” means “to withdraw from one’s position or occupation” you might come to the conclusion that if you’re one of those people who are, or who are thinking about retiring, it just might be a good idea to figure out your financial situation first.

So, I asked many of our Not-Yet-Dead subscribers: “Have you planned for your retirement? And do you have any questions about preparing for your financial future?”

And the questions came in faster than you can say “do you offer senior discounts?”

So, on behalf of my fellow not-yet-dead retirees and retirees-to-be, I reached out to an expert. Fred Dawson ChFC, CLU, is a Wealth Manager and President of Bassett, Dawson and Foy, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware. With more than 30 years of comprehensive wealth management experience, Fred is dedicated to being a trusted advisor, especially to successful women.

“My years of experience in advising successful women, many of whom I’ve interviewed for my books and articles, have revealed some extraordinary points of view, opinions, feelings and ideas about the financial well-being of women,” Fred said. “Women tend to think of everyone else first. What’s more, women have a natural propensity to outlive men. They may be faced with making some decisions they do not feel ready to face. Many find themselves suddenly faced with a myriad of decisions when they may be most vulnerable to well-intended, but uninformed advice.”

Fred graciously offered to answer your questions about Social Security, retirement planning, financial planning … and there were a LOT of them! For that reason, this will be the first of a two-part post on the subject. This week: “Planning for Your Retirement and Social Security Concerns.” Next week Fred answers your questions about “Investing after Retirement.”

Planning for your retirement

NYD: I know we’re all supposed to be financially aware and learn about family finances throughout our marriages, but face it, that’s not always the case. One spouse often takes care of it, and the other thinks she/he will get around to learning and doing more “someday.” So, what’s the bare minimum you need to know so that if your “bookkeeping spouse” dies first, you have the info you need to begin to assume this (dreaded!) responsibility? And armed with that info, who can you hire to mentor you until you are comfortable handling it on your own?

FD: Early on in my marriage to Louise, I made her a deal. I would bring home the paycheck and she would pay the bills as long as she would record all transactions by month. All went well until we decided we really needed to replace our car. I asked her to bring out the monthly records. I was quite impressed by the fact she recorded everything, even the $1.55 she spent at the WAWA. That said, I also noticed immediately that she never added it up. When asked why not, she responded “I didn’t want to know!” (LOL).

I would suggest that both spouses gather at the end of the month to pay the bills together.

I now have (this) on a computerized system that adds it up and after 43 years, she still does it dutifully and delivers it to me. After the same amount of time (43 years) helping people get control of their finances, I can see it is a very common problem. I would suggest that both spouses gather at the end of the month to pay the bills together. I have also included a copy of a monthly expense sheet (download here) that could be used as the basis of recording monthly expenses. The “unknown” always seems scarier than it really is. The key is getting organized and having a recording system by month so that nothing slips through the cracks.

One last thought; if you don’t control your money, your money will control you!

NYD: At what age should someone start thinking about retirement and planning for it financially?

FD: It’s important to develop a “savings mentality” even when you are young and just starting out. I rarely see it happen at younger ages as we are still busy trying to “keep up with The Jones” as we are putting children through college! I think most people get serious around age 50. If you are planning to retire one day, then PLAN to retire! A formal retirement plan along with guidance from your “financial team” (financial advisor, accountant, estate planning attorney) should be completed and reviewed at least annually to see if adjustments are needed. Sometimes you change your mind (It’s a man’s and a woman’s prerogative!), and we know that Uncle Sam changes the rules of the game frequently!

NYD: How do you know if you have enough money to retire? People are living longer these days and people are working longer, both because they anticipate living longer, and because they are feeling good and enjoy the activity.

FD: I strongly urge those who are considering retirement to prepare a monthly budget. Determine where ALL your money goes per month. (Determine) those things you pay annually (real estate taxes, insurance, etc.) (and) divide those numbers by 12 to come up with a monthly number. Things that are paid quarterly, divide by three for same reason. You now know (maybe for the first time in a long time) how much you actually need to live on per month. Congratulations!

Compare that answer to your monthly income sources (i.e., Social Security, pension, wages, rental income, etc.). If your “income equals your outgo” consider yourself lucky as most do not. I’ve even heard some people confess “at the end of my paycheck, I have too much month left over!”

Next, add up ALL the accounts that you may have (401(k), IRAs, CDs, savings, brokerage account statements, safety deposit box contents, etc.). When you total those accounts, assume an annual distribution rate of about 3% – 4%, then divide that by 12 for monthly added income. Of course, if these additional accounts are not generating 3%-4% currently, you may need to restructure them accordingly by considering investing in annuities and/or restructuring your other investments to generate more income with a conservatively managed stock and bond portfolio to accomplish that. It’s important to note that the new portfolio may not guarantee dividends or interest. Many annuities do guarantee income but can be generally illiquid (in a lump sum) should you need a lump of cash. Annuities can be very
complex financial instruments and vary greatly in their benefits. I also suggest that most people have a cushion of about 3-6 months of monthly expenses kept in a readily available interest- bearing account in case of emergencies or unplanned expenditures.

People are living longer and if they want to continue working full time or part time, that is an important consideration. That said, current health should also be considered realistically. If your health deteriorates later, you may erode your assets prematurely. Long term care insurance should be considered if you are in reasonably good health and can afford to purchase it.

An excellent financial advisor should be able to prepare a financial plan that could consider many of these points and add inflation to your income needs, as we know that inflation can seriously erode purchasing power of your savings and should not be ignored.

As this analysis can be daunting if you have limited financial experience, seeking out a properly credentialled and licensed financial advisor could be yet another excellent investment. I personally feel this is no time to “do it yourself” frankly as there are many moving parts and lots more questions to be addressed. This is only the beginning!

NYD: Should I play off a mortgage before retirement?

FD: Maybe! How’s that one! LOL! If you have a very low interest rate on the mortgage, probably not, especially if you have the income or asset base to continue paying the payment. The reasoning is that if your mortgage rate is 3.5% fixed for 30 years and you have an investment portfolio doing 6% on average per year, then the difference (2.5%) may still be making you more money. On the other hand, if the mortgage is just a nuisance, and you have the capital to pay it off without eroding your asset base significantly, then it should be considered.

Your tax preparer (CPA), should be consulted to make sure that other income sources and tax write offs or upcoming tax changes may negate or diminish those results. Keep in mind that if you have a mortgage and an available lump sum you may always have the ability to pay off the mortgage later. The reverse may not be an option. That is to say if you pay off the mortgage and then you need a lump sum for something, you may not qualify for another mortgage (at a higher rate?) or home equity line. Much of your money is locked up in your home. I personally like flexibility.

Answering your questions about Social Security

I had a joke for Generation Z about Social Security…

… But they’re probably not going to get it.

NYD: When is the best time to take money from social security? 62? 66? 70?

FD: If you do not need the income now and you are in good health with a family history of good health, my general answer is hold off as long as possible. Taking Social Security at 62 could mean that you’d get about 25% less than if you waited till your “full retirement age.” If you wait later than “full retirement age” until age 70, then you will receive about 30% more for the rest of your life!

Not only would you receive a higher monthly payout, but when annual (usually modest) increases are given, 1% (for example) of a bigger number at age 70 could be a big difference than someone starting at the much lower payout at 62. Yet another reason to know what your budget requires.

NYD: Our financial advisor told my husband to take his Social Security at 70 because there were direct advantages for me. He told me to take it at 66. I did the math on it and if I waited till 70, I would’ve made more per month, but I would’ve left $85,000 on the table and if I died before then… poof! Gone! Also, I’m concerned about what’s left considering the government is in trillions of dollars of debt. There are also some amazing annuities that we lucked into; however, some are laced with a lot of crazy fees that you have to be aware of.

FD: Loaded answer! It “depends.” And I’m not talking about adult diapers here! There are many tradeoffs that should be considered when faced with multiple opportunities to invest. If you can tell me exactly when you or your husband will die, I can tell you exactly what you need to do. Since nobody in almost 40 years has been able to tell me that accurately, we usually plan for most things “going wrong” then diversify/invest/insure accordingly.

If you plan for everything having a “happy ending” and disaster strikes, YIKES! Make sure you ask about and understand the fees. If you are getting value for your money, then you should be able to determine that easily. There are fees that you see, and there may be fees that you don’t see. Just be aware. Fees are not bad; it’s how your advisor gets rewarded for doing an excellent job for you.

Don’t get me started on our government’s debts as that does concern me and it should concern every American!

President of Bassett, Dawson & Foy, Inc., Fred Dawson entered the world of financial planning in 1980. He has earned the professional designations Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). A frequent columnist for the “Ask the Experts” section of The News Journal (Delaware) and other local, national and international publications, Fred can often be heard on both radio and national television.

I Bet Keanu Reeves ALWAYS Says I’m Sorry

This morning I read a great article in Time entitled, “Why Everyone Is So Rude Right Now,” and it reminded me of a post I started (but never published) about how no one says “I’m sorry” anymore. At the time I wrote it, I thought maybe it was just my overly sensitive reaction to a minor offense … definitely not worth exposing my deep central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. After all, I’m a pretty private person!

But ya know … I don’t think it’s just me.

To be clear, I’m not referring to Sorry Syndrome apologies, “the overwhelming need to apologize for every little thing, even if the individual apologizing isn’t to blame or if the event they’re apologizing for is completely out of their control.” I know I don’t have to apologize to the sofa for bumping into it, and my therapy sessions on this are coming along nicely, thank you very much. Nor am I referring to the fact that women apologize more than men. Which … don’t get me started.

Nope, I’m talking about situations in which a clear injury, error, or other clash has occurred, but rather than apologize, the other party either ignores the situation or obstinately reinforces their assault. “I can’t believe you’re upset because I just ran that red light and almost hit you. So now I’m going to turn around and intentionally run into you and really give you something to be upset about.”

Sounds a lot like “You better stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Ugh!

What’s going on here?

It’s interesting that a “should I apologize?” query brings up MILLIONS of articles on the Internet. And telling that the first of those results is “11 Times You Should Not Say “Sorry” (And What To Say Instead).”

Some other examples are:

This alone wouldn’t be a problem, as most of these articles explain (later in the text) that they are referring to situations in which an apology really isn’t appropriate but wholeheartedly recommend an apology when a clear offense has been made. The problem is that on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest. That means that eight out of ten people have now learned that if you want to be a successful person you should stop apologizing and say “thank you” instead. Hmmm … (and by the way, congratulations if you’ve read this far and realize this post isn’t just about Keanu Reeves!)

But clearly there’s something more endemic going on here than a bunch of really confused people who have to “google” whether or not they should apologize.

People who cannot apologize often have such deep feelings of low self-worth that their fragile egos cannot absorb the blow of admitting they were wrong

Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist whose three TED Talks have been viewed over 20 million times (and I’m not even exaggerating this time!!), and author of three science-based self-help books that have been translated into 26 languages, offers an explanation in his article, “We all know people who just can’t apologize — well, here’s why.” “People who cannot apologize often have such deep feelings of low self-worth that their fragile egos cannot absorb the blow of admitting they were wrong” Winch explains. “So their defense mechanisms kick in — at times, unconsciously — and they may externalize any blame and even dispute basic facts to ward off the threat of having to lower themselves by offering an apology.”

Similarly, in “Saying I’m Sorry – 4 Guidelines for an effective apology,” Richard B. Joelson DSW, LCSW writes, “It seems that some people experience an apology as a sign of weakness. Interestingly, when asked if they view it that way when the apology comes from another, they do not see it as a weakness at all, but rather the “right” or “responsible” thing to do. Remarkably, some will say it is a sign of strength or maturity when the apology is offered by the other person, but still feel that it is an unacceptable admission of defeat—or weakness—when the apology is theirs to give to someone else.”

So how are you supposed to react in these situations? Winch suggests, “the best way to do this is to accept their behavior — annoying as it is — and realize they’re simply psychologically incapable of apologizing. What’s more, they’re not going to change. Practicing acceptance can help you disengage from arguments with them and help you limit your feelings of frustration, anger and hurt.”

But for many of us “just too sensitive” people, it’s hard to reconcile the damage done with the necessity to just accept the behavior of the person who caused it. I admit, that’s a tough one for me. Disengaging has never been my forté, and I never learned the words to “Let It Go.”

But (here, finally, comes the Keanu Reeves reference) while I think I’m as badass as John Wick and don’t want to back down, I’d also love to think that, at least for myself, I can be “The One who would bring peace” like Neo, and has a second chance to live up to my potential like Shane Falco.

Yes, I aspire to be every character Keanu Reeves has ever played, and yes, I thought Diane Keaton was INSANE to choose Harry Sanborn over Julian Mercer. But I digress. The point I’m rambling on about and will eventually make is that I just love that a guy who can play a legendary hitman who once killed three men with a pencil … “a fucking pencil” … is strong enough to also say, “I don’t want to be a part of a world where being kind is a weakness.” And if Keanu can say that, then so can I.

So, I think I’ve found a solution to my “weakness.” From now on, I’m going to proudly wear my “I’m too sensitive” badge as a reminder of my INNER John Wick, tough enough, mature enough, and responsible enough to recognize it takes an incredibly sensitive person to understand that rudeness and bullying are the real indications of weakness.

Stop that text!

I am very grateful for a successful 40+-year career in communications. Technology, however, has sometimes taken my perfectly crafted message and thrown me right under the Schoolhouse Rock bus! The message is crystal clear, the word choices are both sesquipedalian and vernacular, the conjunctions are junctioned, AND I ACCIDENTLY SEND IT TO THE WRONG PERSON!

Granted, this isn’t a horrible thing when we’re talking about an update on Los Angeles County real estate metrics. It IS a horrible thing when you’re supporting a friend who just bitched about their sister and you include the sister on the thread because you still don’t know how to use that pesky little “@” symbol properly.

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time my fingers worked faster than my brain. It has happened many times, over every medium. Email, text, social media – I’m pretty sure that had I been the one in charge of the smoke-signal warnings along the Great Wall of China, I would have somehow told the Mongol cavalry exactly where and how to breach. My husband has heard, “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit …” countless times when I’m texting, and my best friend barely communicates electronically because she’s been so traumatized by my stories of shame.

And I’m clearly not alone. In a survey of more than 1,000 people, nearly 45 percent of those sending text messages accidentally sent their conversations to the person they were talking about. When I searched “what to do when you send a text to the wrong person” about 5,910,000,000 results were delivered to me in less than 1 second.

Unfortunately, despite five billion answers, not one of them can tell you how to retract an iphone text message once it has been received. But there are some suggestions.

So, can you unsend a text message?

Apple Messaging

I reached out to Apple recently to see if there was ANY WAY you could redact a text message. It was the millionth time I reached out to them. I have a direct line. They know me. And every time the answer is the same – you can’t do it (“, Nikki. so please stop calling us and just slow down from now on!”).

BUT, if you’re faster than the speed of light AND you know how to quickly access Airplane Mode, AND you happen to be in an area with the worst WiFi reception in the world, then it is possible to stop a text that you sent from reaching the inbox of the recipient. Here’s how:

Immediately put your phone into airplane mode. If you’re successful, the message will fail to send.

IMMEDIATELY put your phone into airplane mode. If you’re successful, the message will fail to send, allowing you to delete it.

My experience? Good luck. I tried this a few times and here’s what I found out:

  1. I have amazing WiFi service (thanks Verizon?)
  2. Be careful when you’re trying this technique. Chances are it won’t work, so think carefully about those practice text comments

For what it’s worth, there was a rumor in June, 2020 that the iPhone 14 would include a feature that would “retract iMessages after sending them, with the retraction visible to both parties. Fine print visible to both the sender and recipients would indicate that a message has been retracted.” My fingers have been crossed for 15 months now (but it still hasn’t stopped me from sending texts to the wrong people!).

TigerText for “Spies and Cheaters”

There are messaging apps that allow you to undo mistakes. Evidently there was a great app called “TigerText” that allowed you to retract unread messages, set a time limit after which text messages would self-destruct and be wiped from the original phone, the receiving phone, and the server.

I learned about TigerText in the aptly named article, “TigerText: The App for Spies and Cheaters.” However, after CBS chief Les Moonves and his executive team were accused of deleting critical messages in their legal battle with Shari Redstone (“What Is TigerText, the App CBS Execs Are Accused of Using to Delete Communications?“) the app was evidently rebranded as “TigerConnect” and is now used by physicans and hospitals as a messaging app fully compliant with HIPPA regulations (😳).

I have a feeling that if I had TigerConnect on my phone, I’d be breaking HIPAA regulations left and right.


If you happen to be texting with someone on WhatsApp (you’re both using the app), there is a way to recall a message sent by mistake on your mobile phone if the recipient hasn’t read it yet. All you do is go to the chat window, hold down on the text you want to remove and tap “delete.” If the recipient has already read the message it will only be deleted from your chat window … not theirs. Bummer.

Even so, I wish everyone I knew used WhatsApp. It sounds like I might have a chance with this one!

Apologize, forgive yourself, and try not to do it again

So what can you do when you sent a text to someone without meaning to? I found lots of articles and posts offering excuses and lies for misdirected texts. There are some incredibly creative suggestions for this (Hey! I just sent a message to you that was meant for (name another person). Could you please forward that to them? Or there’s this one: Check out my last text I sent to ( so and so) I just sent you. What do you think?) In the study above, just over 33 percent of people who sent a text to the wrong person used some combination of pretending it didn’t happen, blaming someone else for using their device, making up a lie, or simply saying nothing.

But even though it is soul-crushingly difficult to own up to the mistake, it is ultimately the best solution. In fact, 57.4 percent of people who sent a text message to the wrong person apologized for their error. Yes, it’s nauseating. Yes, you might even lose a friend (1 in 5 people report that a relationship has been negatively affected by an unintended text), but a sincere apology can “heal humiliation and foster reconciliation and forgiveness.” And even though you might still feel horrible … doesn’t the person you hurt deserve your apology?

(Care to share your experiences? Feel free to leave a comment below.)

10.25.2021 Update!!! I just tried to “undo” a message on Facebook Messenger, and it works! You and the recipient see that the ,message has been unsent … but hey, that’s a WHOLE LOT BETTER than what it COULD say!!

The Name Game

You know how you’re at a gathering of some kind (say at a really great party, or at a reception following your induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Okay, let’s be realistic … how many of us have actually been to a really great party? So, let’s just pretend you’re walking down the street) and you meet a new person who introduces themself* to you?

Right at that moment I start panicking, because I’m pretty sure I’ll never remember their name and equally as sure that I’ll see them again in an hour. And they’ll walk up and say, “hello again, Nikki” and I’ll be all …

Sometimes I think I remember someone’s name, and I want to say it to them so that they’ll be flattered by the fact that I remembered them, but then I’m petrified because what if I’m wrong? I’ve tried muttering it under my breath before only to have them totally blow my cover with a very loud, “WHAT?

Or the other day, I was so proud of myself for remembering a couple’s names … but forgot the actual people they belonged to. So when I said “Hi Steve and Bobbie” to two people who were not Steve and Bobbie, it became clear to me that remembering the name isn’t all that matters.

Many, many times I’ve met a person and their dog, and the only name I can remember when I see them again is “Sniffy Longdroppings” and for a moment I’ll be paralyzed thinking … “ugh, but what was the dog’s name?”

Yes, remembering names is really hard, and it’s not just something that happens as you get older. In fact, according to Dr. Charan Ranganath, the director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Davis, the simplest explanation for why we forget names so easily is … get ready for it …

… we’re just not that interested.

“People are better at remembering things that they’re motivated to learn,” says Dr. Ranganath. And even when we think we are motivated to remember, we often “underestimate the work necessary to remember something as seemingly simple as a name.”

People are better at remembering things that they’re motivated to learn

So, just how much work is involved? Lets’ see …

The “Grandmaster of Memory” Kevin Horsley, says that distraction is the reason we can’t remember names, and that if we “make compelling associations that stick in the mind like a TV commercial jingle” we’ll solve the problem. “[p]erhaps the best way for you to remember the name ‘Scott Morrison’ (Prime Minister of Australia) is by picturing a Scottish terrier chasing the Doors’ Jim Morrison” he recommends.

Evidently, experts say you can link the name with anything, literally anything, you already know. Researchers at Emory University determined that attaching a visual cue, like a unique facial or body feature, to their name can help improve name recall success by up to 69%. One example Vanessa Van Edwards gives in her video, “How to Remember Anyone’s Name” is to remember the name “Marilee” (whose picture she shows in the video) by her beautiful smile, her teeth with the double “ee” sound … so teeth … sounds like “eee” and she has a nice smile, so, teeth = Marliee.

Or associate their name with something it rhymes with. Say you meet someone named “Bob” – well, you can rhyme that with “rob” and picture your new friend Bob with a gun in his hand and a Zorro mask on his face, robbing a bank.

The problem for me is that I remember the association and not the name! I’ll have no trouble remembering “Jim Morrison,” “Teeth,” and “Zorro,” but the actual names they are associated with? Gone.

Another motivating tip is to imagine you’ll get $100,000 for remembering the name of the next person you meet. Or, you could repeat the name of the person a few times – like when you meet them, maybe once during the conversation, and again when you leave.

Many memory experts recommend repeating the names of all of the people you’ve met at the end of the day.

And that’s a big problem for me. Because if I have just spent a WHOLE DAY meeting new people I am way too emotionally exhausted to repeat anything except the names I was clearly VERY motivated to learn a long time ago: like “Peppermint Pattie, Orville Redenbacher, Baby Ruth, and Margarita.”

BTW, I spent waaaaay too much time trying to figure out whether to use “themselves” or “themself” in this case. For those of you who may wonder why I settled on “themself” please enjoy these references:

Photo by blogmonkey from FreeImages

Happy Mother’s Day, Herk

There’s a song, written in 1915 by Howard Johnson (he of “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” fame) and Theodore Morse, called “M-O-T-H-E-R, A Word That Means the World to Me.”

Here’s the chorus:

“M” is for the million things she gave me
“O” means only that she’s growing old
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me
“H” is for her heart of purest gold
“E” is for her eyes with love-light shining
“R” means right and right she’ll always be
Put them all together they spell MOTHER, a word that means the world to me.

I mean, all that is pretty nice … except for “O,” right?

“O means only that she’s growing old”???

Do you think Mrs. Johnson was like, “Howard … really? You wrote a song about me that’s going to be sung all over the country, and even quoted 106 years from now by some smartass blogger, and the BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH FOR ‘O’ IS ‘ONLY THAT I’M GROWING OLD’?

“How about obliging, optimistic, original, outstanding, open-minded, organized?”

I shouldn’t criticize Howard’s choice of words. At least he wrote his mother a song. Could I come up with anything better if I used the letters from MOTHER to describe my mother?

Hmmm … lemme give it a try. This one’s for you, Herk. If you disagree with any of my lyrics, talk to Mrs. Johnson. At least I never called you “old.”

“M” is for the MANY times I completely disobeyed everything you said to me. I grew up in a Charlie Brown cartoon: waa, waa, waa … be home at 6, be home at 10, be home at midnight. I’m not sure I ever made it home before a curfew.

“O” means you OUGHT to have grounded me more often but those few times you did usually ended up pretty funny … like that time you locked me in the bedroom, but found Andrea hanging out of the window bringing me fried chicken from Woolworths.

“T” is for TEACHING me how to take care of myself while you and Daddy worked “outside of the house.” (At that time, all of the stuff you did “inside of the house” wasn’t even considered “work.” It was the 50s … you were just “being the mom,” doing all the house stuff after you got home from work and getting absolutely no credit for it.) But back to the “taking care of myself” part. To this day, I can totally claim “best pillowcase ironer in the world” thanks to your tutelage of me when I was six years old.

“H” is for the sense of HUMOR that you always had when I would hug you and unhook your bra, ALL THE TIME, wherever we were, up till the end! How did you NEVER suspect that I was going to do it!?! I DID IT EVERY TIME, MOM! But you always laughed (like it was still Hilarious!)

“E” is for EVERY time you let me be a “vilda chaya” (that’s Yiddish for “wild animal”) despite the fact that you probably wished I were a little tamer. Thanks for EVERY “barbeque” hole you let me dig in the backyard to cook baked potatoes and be a “pioneer,” thanks for EVERY racetrack we designed in the backyard despite the fact that you might have preferred grass and rose bushes, and thanks for EVERY day in the summer when you let me “run around” barefooted, with my wild frizzy hair while wearing a makeshift bikini made out of rolled-down underpants and a stretchy headband (hey, I was 6). Summers were so amazing!

“R” means I’d RATHER be telling you all this in person. I’d RATHER you hadn’t passed away when I was only 41. I’d RATHER you were here with me, still kvelling from me, my brother, my sister, our children, and their children.

I miss you, Mom. Sorry I was such a little shit! Hope you like the song!

I See Some Bad News Rising

Since May is Mental Health Awareness month, this seems like the perfect time to talk about something that definitely affects how many milligrams of Lexapro I need: negative news. 

Here’s a perfect example; today I woke up to this headline:

Pollution can be 5 to 10 times worse in your home than outside. Here’s what to do about it

Now, call me Pollyanna but has anyone else noticed that AS SOON AS something relatively good happens in the world, we’re immediately BASHED with something bad? Like, I’m just starting to feel somewhat safe walking through the grocery store parking lot without a mask (Vaccine 1 – check; vaccine 2 – check; two-week waiting period – check) and BLAM, now I might be able to go outside somewhat cautiously but I can’t go back inside because my house is going to kill me.

Is it just me?

In case you think I’m overestimating the proliferation of bad news, just take a look at some of the statistics in this March 2021 Letter.ly post, “16 Eye-Opening Negative News Statistics You Need to Know.” (FYI these statistics are based on results from studies and reports that have analyzed the issue and provide an “unbiased look at why the media reports negative news.”)

  1. Approximately 90% of all media news is negative. (Quora)
  2. Sensational stories form 95% of media headlines. (The Guardian)
  3. Nielsen ratings are at fault for 50% of negative news statistics. (The Balance Careers)
  4. 38% of Americans believe the media exaggerated the COVID-19 coverage. (Pew Research Center)
  5. Approximately 1 in 10 American adults checks the news every hour. (Time)
  6. A website lost 66% of its readers when it published positive stories for a day. (Quartz)
  7. Studies show that headlines with bad news catch 30% more attention. (Kinder)
  8. Reports show 65% of news organizations ignore mistakes. (The New York Times)
  9. Around 26.7% of people that are exposed to negative news go on to develop anxiety. (NCBI)
  10. An average of 79% of media companies print biased stories for advertisers. (ScienceDirect)
  11. Headline manipulation has been proven to double readership. (IndustryWeek)
  12. People are 49% more likely to read something negative than positive. (NCBI)
  13. 63% of kids aged 12–18 say that watching the news makes them feel bad. (Common Sense)
  14. Most people blame the public for the popularity of negative news headlines. (Quora)
  15. 79% of Americans believe media articles are not balanced in their arguments. (Pew Research Center)
  16. 87% of the COVID-19 coverage in 2020 was negative. (The New York Times)

So, about that 87% …

Even though any bad news is … bad news, I’m generally able to maintain some perspective before I start writing my obituary. I might be freaked when I read, “C.D.C. Issues E. Coli Warning on Romaine Lettuce Ahead of Thanksgiving,” but at least I can find out (sure, it takes me EIGHT PARAGRAPHS TO GET THERE!) who the manufacturer is, what the sell-by date is, and that “The products identified are already significantly past their use-by dates, so this voluntary recall most likely does not affect any product currently on store shelves.”

Good to know … maybe next time tell me that in the first paragraph?

But, when we’re talking about a GLOBAL PANDEMIC and a new strain of virus that has not ever been identified in humans, it’s pretty hard to maintain perspective. So if 87% of the coverage of that virus is negative, it’s no wonder that “more than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December, an increase from 11% the previous year.”

David Leonhardt’s New York Times weekday newsletter, “The Morning” first brought that 87% statistic to my attention. In his March 24, 2021 (updated April 22, 2021) article “Bad News Bias,” Mr. Leonhardt refers to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Why Is All COVID-19 News Bad?” by Bruce Sacerdote, Ph.D., an economics professor at Dartmouth College, and undergraduate fellow researchers Ranjan Sehgal (Dartmouth College), and Molly Cook (Brown University). 

In this study, Dr. Sacerdote and his colleagues analyzed the tone of COVID-19 related English-language news articles written since January 1, 2020 (written articles and transcripts were analyzed from television sources). They focused on the subtopics of COVID-19 vaccines, increases and decreases in case counts, and reopenings (businesses, schools, parks, restaurants, government facilities, etc.).

Here’s a few things they discovered: 

  • The most popular stories in The New York Times, CNN, and the BBC have high levels of negativity for all types of articles but particularly for COVID-19-related articles.
  • 87% of stories in the major U.S. news sources are negative versus 50% for non-U.S. major sources and 64% for scientific journals and that “the negativity does not respond to changes in new cases.”
    • Potentially positive developments receive less attention in U.S. than do negative stories. 
  • Negativity appears to be unrelated to the political leanings of the newspapers or network’s audience.
    • COVID-19 stories from all major U.S. outlets have high levels of negativity and the variation that does exist is not correlated with readers’ political leanings. 
  • Among U.S. major media, 15,000 stories mention increases in caseloads while only 2,500 mention decreases (a 6 to 1 ratio) During the period when caseloads were falling nationally (April 24 to June 27) the ratio remains relatively high (5.3 to 1)
  • U.S. major media are 38% more likely to be negative in vaccine articles relative to non-U.S. general media, and the gap in vaccine article negativity between U.S. major media and all other sources remained even after vaccines were approved for use (November 2020). 
    • The U.S. major media outlets ran 1,371 stories that mention COVID-19 vaccines and any names of the top ten institutions or companies working on a COVID-19 vaccine, while during the same period they ran 8,756 stories involving Trump and mask wearing, and 1,636 stories about Trump and hydroxychloroquine.
  • In the examination of school reopenings and U.S. major media consumption, the authors found that the strong negative correlation (across counties) between school reopenings and consumption of U.S. major media appears to be driven by selection rather than causality. 
    • Scientists collecting data on school reopenings have found that infection rates among students remain low and schools have not become super-spreaders; however, these positive findings are not reflected in the “overwhelmingly negative” U.S. major media. 86% of school reopening articles from U.S. major media are negative versus 54% for English-language major media in other countries.
  • The U.S. media outperform the non-U.S. media in promoting prosocial behavior (five percent of COVID-19 articles in major U.S. outlets mention the benefits of mask wearing compared to .6 percent for non-U.S. outlets and 2% for general U.S. sources), “though perhaps because such messages are more needed in the U.S.”
  • Demand for negative news is strong in U.S. and other countries. Considering more than 5000 Facebook shares during 2019 and 2020, heavily shared CNN, Yahoo!, MSN, and BBC articles are all very negative in tone, with the U.S. sourced articles being just as negative in 2019 (pre-COVID) as in 2020.

Wait, but why?

In their study, Dr. Sacerdote and colleagues ask, “why are the U.S. major media so much more negative than international media and other outlets?” While their study shows demand for negative stories is quite strong in the U.S. and the U.K. among readers of The New York Times, CNN, and BBC, they find that “U.S. news outlets are more likely to cater to the demand for negativity than are international outlets.”

The authors suggest three possible explanations:

  1. Most of the non-U.S. markets in their sample include a dominant publicly owned news source that is the #1 news source in their countries: BBC (England); CBC (Canada); ABC (Australia). The publicly owned sources may follow a different objective function than private news providers.
  2. U.S. media markets are less concentrated than media markets in other OECD countries which may cause U.S. major media companies to use negativity to attract audiences.
  3. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission eliminated its fairness doctrine regulation in 1987 which required broadcasters to provide adequate coverage of public issues and fairly represent opposing views (the U.K. and Canada maintain such regulations). While this may be a reason why we see more partisan bias in U.S. media, it may also explain why U.S. news providers feel justified in responding to their consumers’ high demand for negative news.

Which brings us back to Mr. Leonhardt who won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, has worked at The New York Times since 1999, and offers some reasons for the cynical perspective many journalists take.

Sometimes … our healthy skepticism can turn into reflexive cynicism, and we end up telling less than the complete story.

David Leonhardt, The New York Times

“In the modern era of journalism — dating roughly to the Vietnam War and Watergate — we tend to equate impact with asking tough questions and exposing problems. There are some good reasons for that. We are inundated by politicians, business executives, movie stars and others trying to portray themselves in the best light. Our job is to cut through the self-promotion and find the truth. If we don’t tell you the bad news, you may never hear it.

“Sometimes, though, our healthy skepticism can turn into reflexive cynicism, and we end up telling something less than the complete story.”

Looking for bad news

With this information, it’s pretty easy to see how this negative news about COVID-19 has affected our mental health. What seems contradictory to me is our “demand” for bad news when we know it will affect our levels of anxiety and depression (and by “our” I mean whoever it is who’s “liking” and “sharing” the most depressing news ever!).

In the next post I’ll share some explanation for why we seek it out negative news, and what we can do to break that habit (and by “we,” please see definition above). 

And in the meantime, here’s some really great news … “Prancer the ‘Demonic Chihuahua’ Who Went Viral Finds Dream Forever Home.”

Image credit: Ariel Davis

Amaze Your Children and Grandchildren When You Explain Blockchain Technology and Bitcoin to Them!

Have you heard the word “Bitcoin”? I’m sure you have. And while it might be confirmation bias (and by “confirmation bias” I mean a Google algorithm) that makes the word show up every day in my news feed, I doubt that can explain why it’s always on ‘World News Tonight with David Muir” or the lead article in my neighborhood newspaper.

As much as I was perfectly willing to audit conversations about Bitcoin (and its bestie, “blockchain”), write about its related scams (“Online Scams (or “How I (Almost) Met An American Hero”), and even listen to friends’ advice about investing in it, I didn’t have a clue what Bitcoin really was, how it works, where it comes from, if it’s legal, if it’s taxable, if it’s capitalized (in both senses!). NOTHING.

Which is like throwing down the gauntlet. If there’s a concept that’s this ubiquitous, Amazon Prime one-day delivery on books, and an entire Internet from which to learn about it …? Well, challenge accepted.

I dove headfirst down that wormhole. I read, “Blockchain for Dummies,” I devoured online articles, and I unabashedly reached out to experts all over the world (at this age, I clearly have no shame left at all). And here’s what I found out: cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are INCREDIBLY hard to explain – mainly because once you learn one tiny fact, you’re compelled to understand hundreds more.

And then I found Anders Brownworth, Maggie Hsu, and Adil Haris – experts who had not only published straight-forward explanations of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, but who offered to answer any questions I might have, so that those of us who are “not yet dead” can get a basic understanding – at least enough to know what all those news stories are all about and to think before investing our hard-earned retirement funds in it.

Adil, a Manager for the Financial Services Innovation team at Ernst and Young, received his Master of Science in Product Management at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science and Tepper School of Business and wrote, “Blockchain — A Short and Simple Explanation with Pictures” (pictures!). Anders, a Principal Architect in Applied Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and co-taught the first blockchain class at MIT, spoke on the subject extensively from which he created a visual demo of blockchain technology (more pictures! And they move!). Maggie, who leads global business development for Amazon Managed Blockchain and is co-founder of Gold House, sent me a link to this video in which she not only provided me the first understandable explanation of the blockchain and bitcoin, she also illustrated the value of the blockchain technology.

So, here’s a (hopefully) very simple explanation, just to give you a head start. If you want to join me in the wormhole, be sure to click on the links provided by Anders, Maggie, and Adil.

Let’s start with the blockchain

Super simple explanation: Imagine a box (block) filled with information or transactions (data). Kinda like your checkbook ledger, except that it not only shows a record of your transactions, but it can also show a record of the transactions that your payee makes with the payment they receive, and so on, and so on, and so on. Just a big ol’ history of the provenance of that item of value (in this example, dollar) and all of the travels it makes through time.

Now imagine a bunch of computers (nodes) spread out all over the world who verify that the information in that box is accurate (mining) and add their seal of verification (hash). They get paid for this work (verifying that data) in native tokens (bitcoins in the case of the Bitcoin blockchain. Other blockchains may offer other coins or tokens).

Okay, now let’s say a new box of transactions comes along that needs verification (each block can contain a certain amount of information). This new box of data also contains the seal of verification (hash) from the previous box. Once this new box of transactions is verified and is given its own unique seal of verification (hash), it is chained to the previous box (block / chain) so that there’s a running history of verified transactions. The process continues as more and more boxes of data are added and verified. And because all the computers (nodes) running the blockchain have the same list of blocks and transactions and can transparently see these new blocks being filled with new transactions, no one can cheat the system.

All of the information on the blockchain (boxes of data, verified and chained together) is called an “immutable shared public ledger.” An important benefit of this system is that no one can change any of the data or transactions that have occurred (immutable) without affecting the seal of verification (hash) in their blockchain. If they do, it is immediately evident that their hash is different from all of the others who have the same blockchain on their computers, and that their data is not valid. Then the offending (minority) chain is dropped – the nodes simply choose not to talk to the offending node anymore and they carry on maintaining consensus without that node/copy of the blockchain.

And what is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin (BTC) is perhaps the most well-known of more than 6,700 cryptocurrencies in the marketplace (“crypto”). Cryptocurrencies, often called “tokens,” can be used as an online payment for certain goods and services. It’s important to note “online” here, as bitcoin is a digital asset and can only be used digitally.

Cryptocurrency got its name from “cryptography.” Cryptography keeps information secure by using a series of mathematical proofs to both hide (encode and decode) and authenticate (hash/sign) data. These proofs guarantee the security of the transactions or data, the security of the participants, the independence from central authority (like a bank … or a government), and the protection from double spending (ensuring that, like a physical dollar bill, you can only spend it once).

You can purchase bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies via a cryptocurrency exchange. You can also obtain it as a payment for goods and services. And you can “mine” it.

Mining is the process of solving a complex mathematical equation (proofs) first. Then, once your solution is verified by everyone else, you are paid in cryptocurrency. While anyone could ostensibly mine bitcoin by downloading the necessary software on a computer capable of running it, the cost of the computing resources necessary to do so makes mining much less tempting than simply purchasing it on an exchange.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have “value” in that there is a limited amount out there – just like there’s a limited amount of gold. The price fluctuates depending on media attention, rumors, speculation, and availability. That’s the cart-and-horse nature of cryptocurrencies – until they are accepted worldwide as valuable currencies, the volatility will likely continue. And until the volatility as a payment mechanism settles, it is unlikely to gain worldwide acceptance.

What does a blockchain have to do with Bitcoin?

This one is easier to answer. The Bitcoin network relies on blockchain technology to operate because the blockchain technology is what is providing the security, immutability, and historical ledger to the transactions. This organized collective of computers (nodes) is called a peer-to-peer network in that it allows each individual to interact directly with the others. In the case of Bitcoin, the network is built in such a way that each user is broadcasting the transactions of other users. And, crucially, no bank is required as a third party.

How might blockchain technology be used in the future?

Blockchains are decentralized ledgers that can keep track of essentially any data, transaction, asset, etc. If you imagine that every asset can be given a digital identity, then you can imagine how, in the future, all of those assets will be made trackable and unalterable via blockchain technology.

With blockchain technology, there will no longer be a need for third party involvement in many types of transactions. Instead, all of the data will be on the blockchain and accessible to the parties directly involved. Medical records, global financial products, banking, land ownership and real estate transactions, insurance, ID systems, intellectual property, program management within organizations, authentication and tracking can all be put on a blockchain system, one that will be secure, private, and immutable.

Lesson 1: Complete

Despite how confusing it got at times, learning about cryptocurrencies and blockchains was a fun exercise. And while there’s still a debate as to whether “brain training” activities have any effect on dementia, I guarantee you that you’ll know a little bit more the next time you hear someone say “Bitcoin.”

Associated lingo

Cryptography – the field of science that is involved with the authentication and hiding of data using mathematics.

Hash – a unique, fixed-length string of random numbers that is the digital fingerprint of some data. Hashes are produced when a hashing algorithm runs a complex calculation on any data and generates a hash as the result of the calculation. For a great, visual explanation, see Anders Brownworth’s video here.

Miners (not minors) – the computers running the hashing algorithm who are paid in tokens (Bitcoins, for example) for their work.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) – computers that are connected on the Internet via networks, rather than a central server, so that files can be shared directly.

Private keys and public keys – A private key is produced by a complicated mathematical algorithm that allows you to decrypt data. A public key is created from the private key the same way, so that whatever is encrypted with the public key requires the related private key for decryption and vice versa. The public key is made available to everyone that needs it (it is recorded on the blockchain) while the private key is confidential and only shared with its owner. It is nearly impossible to reverse the process of key generation, such that one could generate a private key from someone’s public key.

Consider this example from Adil Haris’s “BlockchainA Short and Simple Explanation with Pictures”: The public key is like your mailbox which everyone knows about, and can drop you messages. The private key, on the other hand, is like the key to that mailbox. Only you own it, and only you can read the messages inside.

Signature – a cryptographic way to prove ownership. You would use your private key to sign something and then the resulting signature could be verified by everyone against your public key.

Wallet – where you keep all your money – in this case, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

Body Image as We Age: Why Aren’t We Kinder to Ourselves?

I’d love to think I’m an evolved adult woman. And in many ways, I’ve learned a lot over my 64 years and have made some healthy improvements (like, one shot of tequila is enough – the other five won’t make me a better singer or dancer). But one area in which I haven’t grown as much as I would like to is in my perception of my “looks.” Depending on the day, the outfit, the social media influencers, the people I’m with, or the magazine I’m reading, my body image can swing from “meh, fine” to “why can’t I zip this zipper, and why are those lines in my forehead so freakin’ prominent, and when am I going to go back to the hairdresser and get a decent dye job?”

Then I keep the ball rolling by criticizing myself for even thinking those things! With all of the troubles in the world, is that really what’s important?

Let’s just say that I can dig a really deep hole for myself that starts with just. one. zipper.

As you might imagine, I’m not alone. In one Glamour magazine poll, 97 percent of women said they have at least one negative thought about their body image every single day.

Dr. Leslie Morrison Faerstein, Ed.D., LCSW, believes we can change those distorted images of ourselves. In the mid-’80s, “Dr. Leslie” founded the first New York State licensed, nonprofit mental health clinic specializing in Eating Disorders and women’s issues. Her practice now focuses on women, aging, and body issues, and she runs a weekly Body Positivity group for Sesh. Dr. Leslie shares her expertise with us in this week’s post.

NYD: Some women feel that they can’t find the perfect balance. If they “act their age” they might be considered boring, irrelevant, invisible, but if they succumb to societal pressure to remain youthful, unwrinkled, thin, non-gray, they are judged for “trying too hard.” How can women reconcile these conflicting pressures in a healthy way?

Dr. Leslie: They can ignore these constrictions and “shoulds.” There is no perfect balance and whose balance is it anyway? I think the bigger question is why do they care that “acting their age” or looking their age – whatever that means – suggests that others (men?) would consider them boring, etc.? I wonder why we try to do what we can for the “male gaze” as well as for some societal/media expectation of what women should look and act like at “a certain age.” 

I let my hair go gray several years ago. I was always blonde but started covering the gray in my late 40s. Then around five years ago, my stylist said my hair looked like it was coming in silvery or ash blonde and let’s not color it. I was all for that considering the cost. I love my natural hair – there’s almost something subversive about not coloring it and claiming my age (now 70). With the pandemic, there seems to be a “greynaissance” going on, and increasingly more women are not only letting their hair go natural, but many younger women are now dying their hair gorgeous shades of gray.

NYD: Considering the large number of women in the aging Baby Boomer demographic, and the fact that we hold the majority of wealth in the US, why aren’t advertisers understanding us and changing their narrative?

Dr. Leslie: It’s certainly puzzling when we do indeed hold the majority of wealth and there are so many of us. I’m always disturbed when older women show up in so many pharmaceutical commercials or ones for needing a supplement to “sharpen” their minds.

With so many wonderful older women actors, it still baffles me that younger women are chosen to play older women. Several years ago, Maggie Gyllenhaal was turned down to play the role of the lover of a 55-year-old man because she was too old. She was  37! She said that at first, she was astonished: “It made me feel bad, and then I felt angry, and then it made me laugh.” Recently, I watched “The Dig” a British film with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan.  Mulligan, 35 years old, is a terrific actor, but she was playing a real-life woman who was in her 50s at the time. Are there no appropriate women actors in their 50s? We can all think of quite a few. Why don’t advertisers and producers change their narrative? Ageism and Sexism.

NYD: How does family affect our body image?

Dr. Leslie: This question particularly interests me as I’ve been talking about how attitudes about our body image is passed down through the generations. I’ve written four separate blogs on this in regard to my family on my website, LeslieMFaerstein.com

We need to recognize that what our grandmothers may have passed down to our mothers and then to us is powerful. Women’s roles, how they dress and how they interact with both men and other women affects our beliefs about our bodies. I come from a family of working and professional women starting with my grandmother who was the Executive Secretary to the President of Paramount Pictures in New York in the 20s, 30s and 40s. She was known as “Sexy Sadie” and was obsessed with her body and how to look attractive, based on the fashions of those decades. 

My mother who was born in 1929 was called “Bubbles” as she grew up which, of course, she hated, and her weight was a constant concern of my grandmother’s and, of course, to my mother herself. She was a professor at Columbia University at a time when there were few women in these positions, but she was always obsessed with her weight and subsequently mine as well. She thought she had the answer to her weight, caring for two small children and getting her advanced degrees when she discovered amphetamines when working at a hospital where they were readily available. She always wrote down what she wore to each class she taught, in case she repeated an outfit and students might think she didn’t have a full wardrobe. She smoked three packs of cigarettes a day from the time she was 16.  When she was diagnosed, not surprisingly with lung cancer at 69, she said to me “Screw it – for the first time in my life I’m going to eat whatever I want.” This blew my mind and was very upsetting.  Only when facing death did she feel that the world of food was open to her.

I was also caught up in dieting and looking professional. It was only when I met Susie Orbach in the early 80s that I started to revise my thinking about diets and the world of food. Susie wrote “Fat is a Feminist Issue” in 1979. This changed my world. Since my daughter was three when I continued my training in Eating Disorders at the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, I raised her with the idea that all food is equal, you eat what you want when you’re hungry and you stop when you’re satiated. She is the one who has broken free from the bonds of dieting. She feels comfortable in her body but has also said that she lives in this culture so is aware of wanting to look good and fit. However, she doesn’t diet and has a healthy relationship with food.

So, this is a long history and way of saying: of course, our families and what our grandmothers and mothers pass down to us affect how we look at ourselves. The good news, though, is that we can break free of the generations of expectations.

NYD: Do body image issues only affect certain socio-economic groups?

Dr. Leslie: We all live in this culture, so many women from all the socio-economic groups experience body image issues. They may differ based upon the expectations of their particular culture and what their “ideal” body type may be. Anorexia and Bulimia were often thought of as privileged white women’s problems. 

Back in the 1980s, I started the first New York State licensed, nonprofit mental health clinic specializing in Eating Disorders and women who had been sexually abused. I was determined to provide good treatment for all women, regardless of whether they could pay or had public health insurance. When I went to the licensing hearing the evaluators – all white men – were hesitant to grant the license because they felt that “poor” women or women on public assistance didn’t have eating disorders and therefore, I didn’t need to receive Medicaid payments for their treatment. Somehow, this illusion persists.

NYD: Certainly, the traditional media play a part in the low self-esteem that women have about body image, but what effect does social media have? Is it equally impactful? More so?

Dr. Leslie: This question follows from the previous one. I think one of the most striking studies demonstrating the power that media has on women and their body image comes from Fiji.

Prior to 1995, television did not exist in Fiji. Then American television started to show up. By 1998 – in three short years – eating issues and body image distortions became rampant among the female population. Prior to this, women who were larger were seen as better off – they had access to food and a larger body meant well-being. However, by 1998, 11% of Fijian women and girls engaged in self-induced vomiting, 29% were at risk for a clinical eating disorder, 69% had dieted and 74% felt “too fat” (reported in “Pursing Perfection” by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly).

I do believe that social media has upped the challenge about how we feel about our bodies and our own beauty, since the images we see are of women like us but who have made themselves the arbiter of beauty – at any age – and I wonder what their own body images are if there is the desire to project themselves as the model we measure ourselves against. We believe so much of what others post and envy their lives, their bodies, their beauty. There is this belief that our bodies are plastic. The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 164 lbs. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 107 lbs. It’s not realistic to measure ourselves against this ideal of beauty.

The average American woman is 5’4″ and weighs 164 lbs. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 107 lbs. it’s not realistic to measure ourselves against this ideal of beauty.

I am, however, encouraged by the Body Positivity movement – and the images on social media – encouraging women to feel good about their bodies no matter what the size at that moment in time.

NYD: I heard you say (in “Twisting the Plot – Twist Your Body Image”) that diets don’t work – they are made not to work, and that it isn’t an issue of discipline. Can you elaborate on that? Would you recommend this to someone who might be reading this and feeling discouraged by dieting?

Dr. Leslie: Dieting begets more dieting. The usual cycle is: “I’m too fat, I have to go on a diet” which then leads to finding a new diet. We follow this diet with its restrictions and may very well lose weight but at some point, we can’t live in a “cage,” so we break out. Once we eat something not on the diet (we’ve been “bad”), our response is often “Screw it – I’ve already blown it, so I’ll eat all the things I haven’t been able to eat.” This leads to bingeing, feeling bad about ourselves, trashing ourselves and then finding another diet that “will work.” The U.S. Weight loss/control industry is now worth $72 billion! There’s a lot riding on keeping us on diet after diet and feeling bad about our bodies.

I believe that if we identify when we’re hungry (not starving) and eat what feels right (intuitive eating), stop when we’re satiated (that’s the hard part), then we will reach our set point without dieting. The great thing is that we have multiple times during the day to work on identifying what we really want to eat when hungry. We can ask ourselves: do I want something crunchy, smooth, hot, cold etc. and then find the right match to our hunger. It is like going back to being a baby. If a mother is nursing, she doesn’t know how many ounces of milk the baby is taking in. The baby herself stops when full. It’s at the point that we introduce solid food that we put a value to it. Certain foods become particularly charged, especially those that may be considered “junk” or “special occasion” food. We don’t tell our children to hurry up and finish your ice cream so you can have broccoli. This is what I mean by all foods are equal.  It’s all food: cauliflower, chocolate, cake, chicken.  If we take away the “charge” around those foods like cake, etc. then there will be times we’re hungry and want that or just feel like having some of it for whatever reason.

I also recommend to my clients that if you’re not hungry and you find yourself looking for something to eat, then there is a feeling state going on that has nothing to do with hunger. It’s useful to try to identify that state and what is really going on: boredom, sadness, anxiety? If you realize that after you’ve eaten when not hungry, try to go back and slow down the experience from the time the idea of eating popped into your head. Look at it frame by frame and try to identify the feeling and what might have taken care of it more appropriately than food.

During the pandemic, so many people (of all ages and genders) have put on weight while home and isolating due to anxiety, depression – a host of feelings.

Food and alcohol have been one way to cope with it. We did what we can to get through this period. We’ve talked about the Covid “19” but it’s also been reported that many gained between 20-29 lbs. We need to be kind to ourselves and not go on crash diets as we start to slowly move out of isolation. So many of us have experienced this, and it takes time. I would recommend starting to get in touch with body hunger and experience the pleasure that comes from eating the right match to what your body wants at that moment.

NYD: Can you suggest any practices that will help women overcome negative body image internal messages? (Mindfulness practices, social media vacations, journaling, etc.)

Dr. Leslie: It’s helpful to talk to others who are also struggling. A Body Positivity group can help. If it’s a problem that haunts you, seeking therapeutic help is always useful. Mindfulness or Intuitive Eating is a good place to start – there are books, workbooks and courses that can teach you how to approach food this way. I find it helpful to remember “If we talked to our friends the way we talk to our bodies, we’d have no friends” (Marcia Germaine Hutchinson). That often brings us up short. Follow women who are part of the Body Positivity movement and see how they relate to their bodies. If you enjoy journaling, then by all means write down how you speak to yourself and your body – what’s going on at those times.

And it’s always delightful to see Ari Seth Cohen’s beautiful older women in Advanced Style.

My teacher, Susie Orbach said “Women are trying to change the shape of their lives by changing the shape of their bodies.” I think that’s something we should think about: what really needs to change in our lives? 

Leslie Morrison Faerstein, Ed.D., LCSW has over 40 years of experience in nonprofit administration, founding the first New York State licensed, nonprofit mental health clinic specializing in Eating Disorders and women’s issues in the mid- ‘80s. She then went on to help establish, as Executive Director, Musicians On Call, bringing weekly live music to the bedsides of patients in 6 cities. Most recently, she was the first Executive Director of amazing.community, a nonprofit organization that worked to expand the workplace for women 50+ who had a gap in their work history. She has always maintained a psychotherapy practice as well. 

Currently, Leslie is focusing on women, aging and body image.  As she approached 70 (she is now approaching 71), she started thinking and writing about issues this generation now faces. She is expanding her practice and runs a weekly group on Body Positivity for Sesh. You can find her at LeslieMFaerstein.com and she can be reached at LeslieMFaerstein@gmail.com. She is very much Not Yet Dead.