Tag Archives: mental health

Bole – Day 2 of My Alzheimer's Prevention Plan

Bole - The stem or trunk of a tree.
Bole – The stem or trunk of a tree.

Bole – the stem or trunk of a tree, or something cylindrical resembling a tree’s trunk, like a pillar or roll.

The first usage of this word according to the OED was around 1314—e.g., ‘His neck is thicker than a bole.’ ‘The gnarled boles of pollard oaks and beeches.’

When writing historical fiction it’s always a battle between authenticity and reader’s enjoyment. Avelynn is set in the year 869: a time when Old English reigned supreme—a form of our language that is unrecognizable today. If I wanted to make my book truly authentic, I’d be waist deep in obscure and obsolete words and usage that no modern reader could comprehend! The compromise then is to use today’s language to set the tone, without sounding too modern that the passages ring of anachronism—phrases or words that just sound grossly out of place, like saying ‘wowzers,’ or ‘that’s cool,’ in ninth century dialogue.

Bole is a nice word. It has nice, deep linguistic roots, but it’s not too obscure or odd sounding that I wouldn’t be able to slip it into the narrative without too much trouble. It’s also part of my APP – My Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan. Earlier, I opened my Webster’s dictionary to A and found algid. Today, I peeked onto the pages of the letter B and happened upon bole. I’m committing the words to memory to help grow my hippocampus. This tidy little word will come in handy. Be sure to look for it in one of the Avelynn novels … I’m sure I’ll find the perfect place for it. 😀

In keeping with the three ‘Rs’ of writing and learning, as outlined by my children’s elementary school teachers: retell, relate, reflect … I’ve retold what bole is, I’ve related the word to my writing, now I’m going to reflect on something that makes it personal to me. This, all in an effort to make these words stick in my lagging short-term memory reserves and hopefully help grow my brain and ward off the damaging effects of Alzheimer’s, which as of 2015 has affected 47.5 million people worldwide.

Here then is an amusing anecdote for your reading pleasure:

When I was young, my grandparents owned a few acres of property.

My grandparent's farm

They didn’t have a ‘farm,’ per se, but my grandfather turned one of those acres into a large vegetable garden, which supplied a good portion of his culinary needs, as well as those of his friends and family who were lucky enough to get some of his surplus harvest. My grandparents also had several varieties of apple and pear trees, which garnered lots of delicious fruit for pies and tarts and just plain eating! I loved going to my grandparents. In fact, I was there most weekends of my youth.

Picture little blonde me, running around in pigtails, playing in the dirt, barefoot.

Little blonde me

Now, envision those apple trees. They were old, gnarled, and beautiful. Not like the squat and compact hybrids and cultivars of today, these thick boled giants were strong and sturdy, like protective, gentle matrons. Which leads me to my favourite past time—climbing the apple trees.

Solid and wide, the branches were twice my width and easily supported my tiny frame. I climbed them all. Admittedly, some were more challenging than others, but I didn’t give up, persevering until I could shimmy up each and every rough-barked bole and rest safely in the curve of a forked bough. I was a tomboy, in case you couldn’t tell. 😀 But of all the trees on the farm, there was one I held dear to my heart. Its boughs held me, supported me, cradled me, but it also provided a fantastic opportunity for make believe.

Tucked away safely in the nook between two hefty branches, my feet dangling on either side of the trunk, I would don my construction hat and become a foreman, the tree my excavator. The little shoots that emerged from knots and crannies in the bark were my levers and gears.

I would pull and push, lifting the great shovel up and down, while a tug or jerk on a separate shoot swung the gaping mouth from side to side. The amusing part of all this was, it was never a dig site, I was there to demolish stuff! I would raise the big arm, crash the claws down into the roof of an imaginary building and watch it chomp and tear away at the structure, swing after swing, blow after blow, until finally the building would collapse in a great puff of dust and smoke. It was a beautiful sight!

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the horn blast would echo five o’clock throughout the construction site. I would congratulate the workers on a job well done, put my big rig into park, remove the keys, set my helmet on the seat, and climb down. It was then a quick scamper into the old farm house and a sprightly jump up on to the bathroom counter. With my toes wiggling in the warm sink water, my grandmother would scrub the dirt away until the brown water trickling down the drain turned clear. After all, every barefoot construction worker must wash their hands and feet for dinner. 😀

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

My Alzheimer's Prevention Plan

Algid: chill, cold, freezing, frozen, frigid

Algidity. Algidness.

Today starts a new enterprise, a journey to increase the size of my hippocampi.

A recent Prevention Magazine  article: How to Beat Alzheimer’s at Its Own Game by Mike Zimmerman, spoke to the ways one can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Among good advice like eating well, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep, it suggested memorization might help us grow our brain—specifically the hippocampus, which is in charge of short-term memory (among other things).

There are two hippocampi that make up the structure called the hippocampus, and each section is roughly the size of your thumb. Unfortunately, with age, this little structure shrinks over time. The number they quoted in the article was 0.5% a year—every year starting around fifty years of age! That is a staggering decline. The article then went on to reveal that it doesn’t have to be a one-way, slippery slope into dementia, we can actually grow our hippocampi, make up the deficit, and gain back years of mental focus and clarity. We do this by challenging our wilting and lagging memory function. In other words, if you want bigger biceps, you have to lift weight heavy enough to force the muscle to rebuild and repair. If you want a bigger hippocampus, you need to challenge your short-term memory regularly in order to build new brain cells, make new connections, and establish new neural pathways.

This, I’ve decided, is where my good friend Webster comes in.


I’ve had this wonderful dictionary forever. It’s my go to, for obscure words, or when I swear a word exists, but I can’t find it in my lighter, much more portable, pocket version. I recommend everyone get their hands on a real, thick tome of a dictionary. There’s so much to learn in these beauties!

So, back to Alzheimer’s and Webster. Every day, I will be looking up a word in the dictionary and committing it to memory. I will use the three ‘Rs’ of reading to help me make connections. These rules of learning so rigorously delivered by all three of my children’s English teachers in elementary school are: retell, reflect, and relate. I’m hoping with this approach, the elusive new word will actually stick to my shrinking recall and help me flex my atrophying memory muscles.

I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova for my book club, and the entire time I was reading it, I was left wondering, am I going to get Alzheimer’s? My grandmother suffered terribly from the disease, and unlike Lisa Genova’s more uplifting authorial vision of the infliction for Alice, my grandmother lived in a very scary place. Wherever or whenever her memory took her, it was full of fear and suffering. She would often cry out and scream for the safety of her children, or for her husband. It was terrifying, and I was just watching it. She was living it, day in and day out.

My father-in-law is currently in the grips of his own battle with the illness. He too suffered from the negative effects of Alzheimer’s, with the disease bringing out episodes of violence and aggression, until it became dangerous for my mother-in-law to care for him.

It is a frightening disease, and for those of us passing from our twenties to thirties to forties and beyond, and for any one of us with children, or jobs, or multiple responsibilities, a lack of sleep, or stress, we may find our short-term memory sinking to dangerously tapped-out levels. When we read a book like Still Alice, we begin to seriously freak out that this could be happening to us. Right now. Even if we’re not aware of, or are we? That book messed with my head. But I wasn’t the only one. Several other moms in my book club also feared for the wellbeing of their intermittent memory recall. The book raised the spectre of fear, which dug its little hooks into my brain, but I’m determined to shake them free.

So … algid. Let’s see how I’m doing with the three ‘Rs’. I’ve retold the findings represented in Prevention Magazine, and I’ve reflected on my own reasons for starting this journey, including my grandmother, and the book Still Alice. Now, it’s time for me to relate the word to something so I can keep algid alive and well and fill up some good hippocampi space.

I have very low iron. In fact, I live with chronic iron deficiency every day of my life. It’s exhausting. I’m not anemic, but don’t bother telling my body that. I have algid hands and feet, and I’m stuck in a state of perpetual algidness. In the algid air of a winter’s morn, I’m bundled in twenty layers, and I’m still shivering. As I look out my window upon the algid landscape, fresh green grass and spring daffodils lay buried under a layer of ice and snow. I pine for warmer weather and the return of summer’s heat and glorious sunshine. Oh, if I could only break free from this algidity!

A fireplace and a dog. Perfect :)

Until then, Razz and I will huddle in front of the fireplace and wait, ever so impatiently for the algid temperatures to final rise and stay above zero!


In gratitude,

Marissa xo