Shocking study says zap improves memory

The husband just informed me of a study that found a mild electrical zap to the brain will give older people the “working memory” of a 20-year-old.

Concerned about his high level of enthusiasm, I calmly said, “The toaster is still plugged in. Why don’t you go first?”

He said he didn’t mean to imply that I needed a jolt to the brain, he just thought it was interesting.

Sure. And I don’t mean to imply we should take a cruise when I leave travel brochures lying around either; I just think they’re interesting.

I conceded that the concept of faster-working memory was intriguing. I also asked him to stop staring at my skull.

I readily admit that he is the one with the better memory for details. A lot of couples are like that. One meticulously dots the i’s and crosses the t’s while the other paints with big, bold brushstrokes and splatters paint on the floor.

The detail man with excellent memory then showed me a picture of a study participant wearing something that looks like a swim cap covered with round plugs and lots of wires. “They say it feels like a tingling sensation or itch for 30 seconds and then the wearer gets used to it,” he explained.

“I get that same feeling when I have my hair done. The shampoo gal gives a great scalp massage. I’d rather have the scalp massage followed by a good haircut than a jolt of current.”

“They say it can help clear brain fog,” he says.

“Sleep can clear brain fog,” I retort. “Or taking a walk outside. No wires necessary.”

“Wouldn’t it be great to have the quick response time of a 20-year-old?” he asked.

There’s no denying the brains of our youth would be enjoyable. Who knows, with better brain speed we could probably do our taxes with lightning speed. We might even be able to play complex video games. I might stop trying to unlock other people’s cars in parking lots. I might even remember what I read. I might even remember what I read.

“It would be something if the brain speed of a 20-year-old would allow me to do back flips again,” I muse out loud.

“They didn’t say it could work miracles,” he chuckles.

One minute he sees possibilities; the next minute he’s Mr. No-Can-Do.

I read up on the research myself and found a side story equally interesting. Or terrifying. People are buying do-it-yourself kits and trying this brain-stimulation business at home. I didn’t say they were sane people, just people.

Meanwhile, a researcher following the do-it-yourself crowd found that given a hypothetical situation, individuals would be more willing to use a brain stimulation device on others before using it on themselves.

Isn’t that the way it always works?

I’m hiding the toaster. Then I’m making a hair appointment.

To buy or not to buy souvenirs

Because the husband is more a kid at heart than I am, he says we need to find souvenirs for the grands while on a trip to Savannah.

I can be a kid at heart, too, but I also can be a mathematician—and even cheap, tacky souvenirs x 11 grands adds up quickly.

The better half states that adults may be divided on the value of tacky souvenirs, but children are not. He says that children are of one mind on the subject—they like souvenirs and they want them.

So we are pawing through mounds of cheap key fobs, plastic sun visors, kaleidoscopes, chocolate treats that would melt in the heat, bubble wands, over-priced T-shirts and finding nothing.

But then we spy the pirate section. On this we are in full agreement – you can never go wrong with pirates.

We consider a foam cutlass, but after a brief duel conclude that a foam cutlass creates more wind shear and sting than you might imagine. This would be enjoyed by the boys no doubt, but not appreciated by their parents. We opt for two pirate hats, which are soft and create no wind shear.

Still empty-handed for the nine girls, I spot small bracelets in an array of pretty colors all threaded on elastic.

“What about these?” I ask the husband.

He turns one over a couple of times and says, “Nice. But can you eat them?”

The bracelets are made of small beads shaped like starfish and turtles, all resembling rock candy, which is edible and was a popular souvenir when we were kids. We purchase nine and make a mental note to tell the girls not to try eating them.

As the clerk rings up the bracelets, I remember a souvenir I had as a girl. We had gone to the Gulf Coast and could choose one thing at a souvenir shop to remember our trip by. I chose a blue plastic soap box with the lid smothered in silver glitter and topped with a pink flamingo. It was cheap and tacky and I believed it was the most exquisite thing a girl could own. It was too beautiful put soap in, so it sat in a dresser drawer year after year, slowly aging, yellowing, the glitter falling off, a reminder of a family trip long ago.

My dad once gave our girls unexpected souvenirs. They were in college at the time, far too old for such things. He hadn’t taken a trip anywhere, but he had found small glass ornaments to hang in the window.

The girls are married and have families of their own, and those ornaments are still in their dresser drawers in their old bedrooms.

I have been won over to the notion that even cheap and tacky souvenirs may have worth and value. Tiny trinkets say I was thinking of you even though we were apart. That’s always a good investment.


Just add kids and dirt

The sky is blue, the sun is blazing and the aroma of SPF 60 sunscreen permeates the air.

The husband was up early wearing his bright orange hearing protectors inflating the large pool that came in a box picturing clean-scrubbed, happy children at play. Inflated and filled, clear water in the pool shimmers in the dazzling rays of morning sun.

The whole crew is here today—11 clean-scrubbed, happy grands just like the children on the box. Make that 11 plus one. A sweet 6-year-old neighbor boy from around the corner has joined the pack, making it a full dozen.

The kids are unleashed, running and jumping, splashing and screaming, younger ones taking time to wipe water from their eyes on fluffy clean towels.

Soon, two adorable little ones are using butterfly nets to strain bits of grass from the glistening pool water.

An hour later, it appears my colander is being used to strain even more grass and bits of thatch from the pool.

By 11 o’clock, the sun is nearly overhead, and the water is turning cloudy.

A 4-year-old whispers to her mother that she likes the neighbor boy. I considered sending the neighbor boy home.

By noon, the water is markedly murky and the 4-year-old is giving the neighbor boy rides on the back of a tricycle as she circles the patio.

Grass and thatch cling to all their legs and arms but not a one of them cares. The children on the box would care.

The once clean towels are now soaked, matted and trampled. A 3-year-old runs by with a dried reed stuck to her back.

A 1-year-old, who only recently learned to walk, totters over with a water shooter in each hand. You have to wonder who she’ll take aim at—her older cousins or the grandma who just cut off her supply of Cheerios.

After a lunch of PBJ and apples the wild things dutifully line up for another application of sunscreen because it aint over ‘til it’s over. The once beautiful lawn encircling the pool is an ever-widening mud slick. A tear glistens in the husband’s eye.

By 2 o’clock, the pool water is a muddy brown. If kids who had not been here since morning  came over and someone said, “Get in the pool,” the kids would recoil in horror and run screaming.

By 3 o’clock the pool water appears to be morphing from a liquid to a solid. The grandchildren are officially swamp people.

Cushions on the patio chairs bear mud prints and the beach towels are likely history. T-shirts and cover-ups that were once white are now the color of dirt.

At 5 o’clock, the neighbor boy’s teenage sister arrives to pick him up. He culls through piles of flip flops and pool toys scattered throughout the yard searching for his tennis shoes and mud-colored T-shirt. On his way out the door, he politely asks my daughter, “Was this play or a party?”

“It was play,” she says.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought there might be a party bag.”

“No, this was just play. You should see them when they party.”

This baby owl is a hoot

Looking back, burping the owl was the first mistake.

Cueing the barking dogs was the second, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We planted strawberries in the raised beds this spring. Those would be the raised beds that we keep raising a little higher each year to deter critters. In a few more years, the raised beds will be raised so high, we’ll need ladders to pull weeds.

Or we can just ask the rabbits to pull the weeds for us.

Last year, one of the little ones asked if we could buy a strawberry plant. We did, fully expecting it would die and we would have thrown good money out the window, but the kid was asking for a strawberry plant, not a pony or a video-game console, so we bought It.

We threw the plant in the garden, turned our backs and lo and behold, it shot out a runner and grew another plant. And that plant shot out a runner and it grew another plant, and that plant shot out a runner, and on and on until the strawberries were multiplying like germs in flu season.

The plants produced berry after berry, all of which were bright red and beautiful, and none of which we tasted. But the rabbits did. Every single one of them. Those would be the same rabbits that steal our lettuce and cherry tomatoes after dark and make lovely salads of mixed greens with a light vinegar and oil dressing while we sleep.

We were going to beat the rabbits at their game this year. The berries would be ours. We bought a large plastic owl and positioned it by the strawberries. The owl is ferocious looking with beady eyes and steely glare. The theory is that owls are predators that frighten rabbits. But you know how theories work.

We never had a chance to test the theory as one of the grands picked up the plastic owl, began carrying it about, patting its back and trying to burp it.

“Put that down! That’s not a baby doll, that’s a ferocious predator!”

She started calling it, “Baby Owl.”

Any predator loses a modicum of ferocity when its first name is Baby. A predator is even less fearsome when it wears a sun hat with a ruffle. And, once an owl has been seated in a little chair for milk and cookies in the playhouse, it becomes a laughingstock. Rabbits jumped out of hiding smirking from ear to ear and guffawed so hard their tails shook.

My second line of defense was to play an audio clip of barking dogs. Talk about ferocious. I hit play and cranked the volume. The rabbits were startled.

We had them now. Or did we?

They moved closer and closer. Two of them parked beneath a bush and appeared to enjoy the canine chorus.

I halfway wondered if they were waiting for shortcake and whipped cream to go with the strawberries.

Wait all you want, rabbits, it’s not berry likely.