Thursday, March 20, 2014

Changing World - Changing Words!

Did you notice in a recent movie about a group of older adults vacationing in India how two of the characters struggled to make sense of computers? One woman played by (Judy Dench) was trying to explore vacation possibilities in India and the other, (Maggie Smith) was asking advice on how she could order biscuits online. Far from being the exception, the scene is familiar to those of us who didn’t grow up in the age of computers.

There was time when ‘Blackber­ries in Radio Shack,’ conjured up fat, plump fruit nestled among headsets and batteries. Today in the technology world, a handheld Blackberry® is generally known as a mobile smartphone that can perform computer functions, i.e., Internet, messaging, word processing.

Here is a list of new tech meanings of words used today and how they were used not so long ago.

Forms to be written when applying for a job or school.
Computer database, word processors and multimedia programs.
Back up
Move carefully, there’s a bus behind you!
Copy files to a second medium (disk) to prevent loss if the computer fails.
Blue Tooth
Not a good color choice when matching a cap to your teeth.
A way of communicating wirelessly over short distances.
Clip art
Cutting out cartoons when you were in grade school.
Computer-generated pictures.
Cold Boot
Get in out of the cold and take your boots off.
Start up the computer when it is not already on.
The hinged lid on a desk, not to be slammed down.
A metaphor to portray file systems on the computer’s home screen.
Where birds take a drink or bath.
Lettering used in word processing.
Hard Drive
A way of driving that can damage the car’s transmission.
An inflexible magnetic disk with greater storage capacity than a CD.
Black and white part of a large percussion musical instrument.
Part of the computer that contains keys and allows you to type.
Start a fire.
A handheld computer for reading books electronically.
A little rodent.
A handheld device that moves the cursor on the computer screen by rolling a plastic ball along a flat surface.

As we face the challenges of computer vocabulary we can take heart remembering, “Everything will be all right in the end, trust me, if it isn’t all right it’s not the end.”* The end of the ever expanding computer vocabulary is nowhere in sight.

* Final statement in “The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Angela Menghraj

Photo: "Bluetooth" by Neil Turner

Monday, November 18, 2013

At a Loss for Words

It can happen to the most loquacious, the most eloquent of us. Even President Obama searched for words when giving a speech. Due to a staff oversight he didn’t have the prepared speech in front of him. When staff gave the speech to him he smiled and began the delivery.

We have no trouble talking about a good book or movie. Yet some human exchanges have you with wings flapping like a frightened bird whose vocal chords have lost their sound. “I am at a loss for words.” You have been taken by surprise. What can you do when this happens? Sometimes, nothing. If the other person is in the throes of strong emotion directed at you, the best thing to do is breathe deeply and listen, knowing the fury is temporary. When feelings subside it helps to suggest returning at a later time to talk about the issue. “I would like to respond to you right now but I don’t have the words.” Why you lose words might not be immediately obvious. It could be you heard “Shut up”, when you tried to express yourself as a child when things got heated. Or it could be you’re afraid if you begin to talk, the painful truth will come out, not to be retrieved. So time can work in your favor.

If this is a particularly difficult conversation with a boss or an adult child, preparation might give a boost to your confidence. Write it down. Author Isabel Allende encourages writers experiencing a block to “Show up, show up, show up.” When stopped by fear or discomfort, you can rehearse what you want to say in your mind. And then “show up! When blocked by fear spoken words, as with written, can break through; they “show up” when you need them. So what you initially experienced as loss becomes a relationship gain.

This being said, we probably have had those times when a friend is fired up about a particular subject. Be it politics, religion or a life episode that brings back painful memories. As she speaks she becomes more and more excited. What can you say? Not a word; listen. The venting eventually subsides and you tell her you understand how hard this has been for her. Then quietly she says, “Thanks for being here, sorry you had to hear this.” Introduce a neutral topic. Be happy your loss of words paid off in this instance and your advice, quietly given, may just have saved a friendship.

Angela Menghraj

Photo: Plonq (

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Institute for Older Adults

Retirement can be wonderful time to do all the things we never get around to doing when we are working. Oddly enough, retirees often are in a quandary when faced with time of their own. Being bored is not an option; it is a challenge.

Since its origin in 1875 Isabella has always demonstrated keen interest in community service and outreach. In 1994 the late Edward J. Mc Fadden, CEO of Isabella, established the Institute for Older Adults to give area residents opportunities to be involved in activities that addressed physical, mental and emotional health. Age alone does not define abilities and needs and the programming of the Institute reflects this thinking.

The Institute serves as the umbrella organization for community programs that promote health and wellness. Members of the 50+ Club, one of the programs, have a variety of activities from which to choose. Walking through the grounds in the early morning, one can observe participants in the very popular “Walking Works Wonders” exercises under the guidance of coach Nick Badera.

In October the annual Health Fair attracted over 300 visitors. Many area agencies and hospitals offered an abundance of resource material. Participants availed themselves of blood pressure, glucose, depression and anxiety, podiatric, and peripheral arterial disease screenings. Along with these services, information about finances, transportation, volunteering, and diabetes by the over 50 local agencies attending the Fair provide an abundance of useful material.

The workshops and seminars offered periodically are another source of valuable information. In December a seminar focused on coping with cancer presented by Dr. Marlena Vega—herself a survivor. According to the Institute’ s Coordinator, Marilyn Pacheco, who arranges the various presentations, in this important topic Dr. Vega provided motivating hope to displace the anxiety that can accompany a cancer diagnosis. The seminars offer topics of current interest.

Connecting with people is an important outcome offered by Isabella’s Institute for Older Adults. Whether it be an outing to the Poconos, a conference or the bi-weekly support group, getting together with other people fills the need for positive social interaction from which we all benefit.

For more information contact Marilyn Pacheco at 212-342-9224

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Literary Venture for Isabella House

Isabella House—situated on the grounds of Isabella Geriatric Center in upper Manhattan—offers independent living for individuals 62 and older. The people who live in Isabella House bring a variety of rich personal experiences and talents to this innovative environment. 

Keeping up with this vital and enterprising community keeps everyone young. One of the attributes of life at Isabella House is a willingness to provide programs and opportunities that meet the ever growing interests of our residents. For example, a number of residents enjoy creative writing classes; some truly committed souls have volunteered to use their literary talents to develop the first Isabella House magazine, titled All in Our Family. It is a new and exciting venture undertaken by four residents who make up the editorial board. They are assisted by Angela Menghraj (Consultant).

Who are the editors?

·         Louise Alexander brings her extensive experience as an educator and nurse. She also produced a community publication, The Beacon Magazine, for the Castle Hill Senior Center in the Bronx.
·         Elaine Grabel is a poet and writer. She has worked in publishing for many years at John Wiley and Sons, and Doubleday. As a judge for the North Eastern Job Corps, Elaine evaluated essays of participants for the annual competition for ten years.  
·         William Hamilton is a former editor of and contributor to the Jane Austen Society of North America Newsletter. He was a teacher in adult education with concentration on writing.
·         Donald Lortie has an extensive background in computer technology. He has participated in a number of writing classes and workshops in Isabella. He also is an essayist with special expertise in scientific topics.

The first thing the board did was to announce the upcoming magazine to House residents, and then solicit contributions from those who enjoy writing. So, in addition to each board member submitting articles, poems and essays, other residents enthusiastically began to contribute their own work. The editorial board will continue to encourage residents to share stories from their lives, their poetry, reflections and anything else that suits their fancy.

Isabella House Magazine will publish its first quarterly issue in the coming weeks. Isabella House residents continue to be engaged in refreshing and life affirming activities in which they use their rich array of talents. After all, there is so much life in individuals of all ages.

Isabella House Magazine will be posted on our Facebook page at and our website when completed. If you have any questions, you may call Angela Menghraj, 212-342-9389.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Other Side of Retirement

The Other Side of Retirement

One year, two years, three years and then you can leave your job and begin a new, exciting phase of life… retirement.  This is the aspect of retirement we see advertised in commercials offered by financial planning organizations,  insurance companies and even pharmaceutical companies,  to mention a few.  We can do a reality check.  What really happens in retirement and are we ready?  For the good times, of course we are. For the less than good?  Well, that takes some reflection.  The time after retirement can also be a time of loss.  Big losses like the death of a parent, the poor return on investments, the loss of our home, our health.  Rather than becoming depressed about what might happen and surrendering our normally positive outlook to morbid preoccupation we can take inventory of the personal (not financial) resources we have acquired over the years. They can get us through the hard times.

Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist who experienced the horrors of a concentration camp during WWII in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, tells us the last free choice we have is that of choosing our attitude in any given situation.  He used his therapeutic skills to encourage fellow prisoners in finding a reason for living.  For Frankl it was the memory of his wife. We recently saw many  New Yorkers, perhaps ourselves among them, exemplify  the decisive choice of getting up, brushing themselves off with courageous determination  to rebuild a home,  get to a job or extend themselves to less fortunate neighbors during Hurricane Sandy.  Because life makes no promises, we can only be ready by schooling ourselves in ways of thinking that support us in even the most trying event. 

Another resource we can bring to life in retirement is our energy whether it be great or lessening.  It may be that after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast our energy is at its peak.  That’s a good time to plan activities, make phone calls or tackle an unpleasant task.  A nap after lunch followed by 20 minutes of moderate exercise can be just the thing to bring us through the rest of the day with energy. 

Thirdly, staying connected to family and friends keeps us in touch with those we love.  We don’t need to wait for a return phone call or feel it necessary to plan a movie or lunch date.  It feels great just to have a long conversation without ending it with, “We must get together”.  In times like these when those we care about may live far away we’ll be happier knowing what’s happening with our children and grandchildren.  They will be grateful for this sign of affection even across the miles and we will be making use of our most powerful resource, our love for one another.

Image credit: Alamy/

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Power of Silence

There is a verse that comes down to us from Mikao Ushi, the creator of Reiki, the belief in healing energy.

Just for Today…

Be thankful for all blessings
Do not be anxious or worry about anything
Treat all living things with respect.
Be kind.

Given the frenetic world we live in, we might add, 
just for today, I will spend some time in silence.

Silence may not come easy.  There is little in our restless world to support being alone in a quiet place.  Some homes have the television on constantly a way of escaping silence.
We are familiar with the conflicting complaints, “It’s just too quiet,” and “Oh for some peace and quiet.”

Noise impacts us.  It affects our nerves, as many harried mothers can attest.  But beyond the home, street sounds in the form of boom boxes and construction drills have negative health effects on our nerves and even hypertension.  Exposure to the loud sounds of video games and music can affect hearing.  One survey showed that children between the ages of 6 and 19 evidence hearing problems as a result.

Can one deliberately create silence?  It may mean turning off the “talking heads” on television, no radio or telephone calls.  Imagine the discipline it would take to put off that first cup of coffee or refrain from CNN for the first 12 minutes of our day.  Janet Luhrs, pioneer of the Simplicity Movement suggests this in her book Simplicity Living Guide and Simple Loving.  The joy of emptying the mind has relaxed people from time immemorial.  No talk or noise to disturb our being alone without fear of a soundless few minutes.  You might receive answers to important questions or ideas for a project just by being in a listening mode. 

If possible, take a walk in the park attuned only to natural sounds.  The natural world is a wonderful place to experience a silence where we don’t analyze, remember, plan.  Acoustic Ecologist, Gordon Hempton, suggests that silence is an endangered species.  He defines real quiet as presence, not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.  He is author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet.

From time to time it can be so sweet to hold oneself in a lone cocoon or stand with arms, ears and heart alert to the sounds of silence.

Image: WicketNox (Cory Brooke) on DeviantArt

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spices with More Than Just Great Taste

Eating fast foods has become part of the American Way. But as consumers become more aware of healthy eating, the food industry is changing and responding to new expectations.  Consumers may or may not be aware that some of the ingredients that make hamburgers and fries so tasty are actually full of nutrients.  The rich spices used to season to them are often powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation of stored foods and remove potentially damaging agents in a living organism.  Oxidation produces free radicals, articles that fly around looking for something to attach to, such as cells and tissue.   Adding spices to fresh foods, especially dark, leafy colorful vegetables, provides a savory, nutritious boost to any meal.

So the creative cook, conscious of what to eat and what to avoid, sprinkles these same spices on healthfully prepared foods that mimic the great taste found in their favorite restaurants.

  • Craving a big cinnamon bun for breakfast?  To a slice of 9 grain bread, spread a thin coating of butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Toast for an aromatic healthful start of your morning.  In addition to its taste cinnamon has been used since ancient times to manage blood sugar levels, aid digestion and a help fight colds.  
  • For lunch, mix chili powder with your veggie burger before broiling and top it with avocado spread and multicolored peppers.  Chili contains the compound capsaicin that gives chilies their heat.  It is good for relieving pain, boosting heart health and is a good source for vitamins A and C.

  • For dinner, enjoy breast of chicken prepared with garlic sautéed with turmeric, the yellow spice found in curry. Turmeric contains curcumin.  Studies show that curcumin may inhibit the growth of cancer.  It is used as an anti–inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis and as a protection against Alzheimer’s  Disease.

  • Love your pizza?  Shake on some oregano to that delicious slice.  Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol, two antibacterial agents that fight off infection.
What do these simple meals have in common?  They taste good and are healthful choices.  We have become a spice nation, reaping benefits in more ways than one.