It’s beginning to look , (smell & sound) a lot like Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas decorations.

🎼Jingle Bells, Yuletide smells, Christmas on display – bringing back the memories of a long past Christmas day.

A Christmas tree trimmed with old fashioned decorations and stockings hung by the fire along with the wonderful smells of gingerbread mingling with the sharp fragrance of pine and familiar songs of the season all work together to invoke memories of Christmas past.  Our senses are doorways through which memories can flow.

According to an article in LiveScience.com, Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed: Sights, sounds and smells can all evoke emotionally charged memories. A new study in rats suggests why: The same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories…Previously, scientists had not considered these sensory brain regions all that important for housing emotional memories, said study researcher Benedetto Sacchetti, of the National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy.

Since the Christmas season is chalk-full of sensory delights, this is the perfect time to take advantage of anything that could stir up memories in your loved one.

For example, if making gingerbread houses or gingerbread men was a beloved annual tradition, then the smell of gingerbread baking or the sight of a gingerbread house could trigger fond emotional memories of happy times past.

The Christmas wreath on our front door.

Pine trees are another seasonal smell that is fairly easy to come by this time of the year– even just a few boughs can produce that wonderful fragrance.

According to Fifth Sense, The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.

Besides smells, the sights associated with Christmas such as decorated trees, poinsettias and twinkling lights might provoke a sense of joy accompanied by a memory or two of yesteryear.

Sounds abound as well this time of the year. Christmas songs and hymns are ring out everywhere you go – stores, coffee shops and even offices. Churches sing many of the beloved Christmas hymns and if your loved one has attended church prior to developing dementia, going to a service will provide a plethora of sights, sounds and smells of the season.

Since the senses are connected to memories, it is possible to provide your loved one with memory-triggering pleasures year around, but at Christmas, it is almost as if the whole world is in this process with you. So as much as possible, take the time to enjoy the sweet-smelling, merry, twinkling, singing most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas!

Twiddle de dee

I remember watching my grandma twiddle her thumbs back when I was a little girl. It fascinated me. She did it all the time – usually while she was sitting in her favorite chair and either visiting or watching TV. She told me it was good to have something for your hands to do while you were waiting. That made sense to me and I remember trying to copy her when she wasn’t looking. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but back when I was very young, teaching my thumbs to twiddle felt like a huge accomplishment.

finishing-well-in-life-twiddle
This one is from AbuelaVicky found at Etsy.comhment.

It turns out that no matter how old you become, it is still good to have something for your hands to do. Last year I wrote a post called For that Fidgety Feeling” about something called Fidgety quilts. I loved the idea.

When my Mama lived with us while she was in the middle stages of dementia, she constantly needed something to do. Prior to the onset of dementia, she both knitted and crocheted. But as the dementia became more and more pronounced,

BizzieLizzieKnits
This one is from BizzieLizzieKnits found on Etsy.com

she found it difficult to maintain any type of ongoing focus.  She would quickly become bored and forget what she was working on.

We kept her busy with short-term activities such as folding warm towels, sorting colored beads into small bowls according to their color, and one of her favorites: picking lint off of sweaters. Before dementia struck, Mama was very detail oriented. It made sense as she was a laboratory scientist and paying attention to details was extremely important.

If I had heard about fidgety quilts back then, I believe that Mama would have loved the idea. The fact that they don’t require any special skills or knowledge to play with the various ribbons, buttons and interesting items attached to the quilts makes them perfect for every ability level.

I recently watched a short news video on BBC titled: “Lancashire knitters ‘twiddle muffs’ dementia tool plea” where there was a plea for area knitters to make and donate “twiddle muffs” to local hospitals. The muffs are a great idea – especially if you are a knitter. If you don’t knit, you can still purchase a Twiddle muff for your loved one. They seem to be a bit less expensive as well as more portable than the ‘Fidgety Quilt’ so would make a marvelous Christmas present for a loved one who tends to get fidgety.

Twiddle Kitty
Twiddle Kitty

Once you begin to look, you will discover a whole world of items designed to help give loved ones’ fingers something to do and perhaps reduce periods of agitation.

If you happen to be a knitter perhaps you might consider creating a few extra twiddle muffs to bless someone who could use a thoughtful and helpful gift this Christmas season.

Jack Hansen re-retires (again)

55 years in the world of education just might be enough for Jack Hansen, but he’s not saying for certain that the third time for retiring will be the charm. When asked why he continued to return, he responded simply, “I missed it.”

Jack was recently recognized by the School Board for all that he has done to enhance education in California.

Todd Brose, Superintendent of Red Bluff Joint Union High said, “Jack Hansen has had a profound impact on education during his 55-year career. As an educational leader in Tehama County, he collaborated with many school districts developing leaders and finding solutions for the betterment of students. Red Bluff Joint Union High School District thanks him for his service and wishes him the best of luck. Thank you Jack.

jackhansen-sm
Jack Hansen

He came by his love for the teaching profession honestly as his mother and older sister were both teachers (his father was an attorney), and he was able to see first-hand both the rewards and challenges of the classroom. He didn’t initially plan to go into teaching, but after doing some volunteer work during college, he became hooked.

When Jack began kindergarten in 1944, his teacher might not have predicted that he would have a career in education: On the first day of school once he realized that his mother had left the room, he had a couple of tearful hours adjusting, by the end of the day, all was good.

Jack’s career began back in 1961 when he taught in Sacramento. In 1966 he was hired in Yuba City as a principle and at the age of 27 he was the youngest person on staff as well as the youngest principle in the state of California.

Jack’s vocation, which spanned from teacher, to principle, to superintendent, and school board member has taken him to a variety of counties, but Hansen believes that the 25 years he spent in Tehama County were some of the most enjoyable.

There have been many changes in the world of education over the past several decades, but Jack believes that the one thing that has not changed is the need to interact with the kids and building relationships. There are more electronics and tools for teaching, but it still comes down to interaction.

If Jack had to name his most rewarding and most challenging positions, he replied that they were both at the same time. He spent a year in a dual role as Superintendent of Red Bluff Elementary and Principle of Vista Middle School in the early 1990s.

Jack and his wife Cindy love to travel – especially enjoying river cruises, they have been fortunate to have visited a good part of the world. They have 8 children and 10 grandchildren, most live in California and one even lives in Red Bluff – they love spending as much time as possible with them.

Being an avid golfer, one thing that Jack really enjoys about retirement is that he gets to get out on the golf course about three times a week.

When asked again if he was done, he replied: “If something challenging or interesting comes up again, I’ll consider returning to the workplace.”

Only time will tell.



Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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