When Carine Nadel told me this story at a Chicken Soup for the Soul luncheon last year, I asked her to write it up for our next book about positive thinking. Her story, “My Husband the Winner,” is a wonderful example of the power of persistence and hope, and also a good illustration of how a spouse can support a dream, even if she doesn’t completely believe in it herself.
It was 1999, and Carine and her husband Steve were running an in-home day-care business. Carine was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and their finances had been better. Steve was obsessed with a TV game show called “Greed,” and was convinced he could be a great contestant. It became his mission to get on the show.
Through a little research, Steve was able to get an audition for the show. Carine was skeptical and worried about what the days off would do for their business, but she couldn’t deny her husband his dream. She stayed home, aided by their high-school-age son, while Steve took a day off from work. “He didn’t make it,” writes Carine, “but was told he’d be called soon for another ‘possible’ taping.”
Steve ended up being called in a few times before he finally got on the show, but he refused to give up. Each time he had to miss work, Carine and her children found a way to pick up the slack so Steve could have his shot.
Finally, his day came. Steve and his teammates made it to a high level, and the stakes were high. With bated breath, Steve waited for his final category — and it was James Bond movies. Movie buff Steve managed to win $100,000.
When Steve called Carine to tell her about his windfall, all she could say was, “You’re kidding.” Carine and Steve used the money to start new careers, pay off medical debts and finance their daughter’s wedding. “If it hadn’t been for his positive mind-set and perseverance,” writes Carine, “I honestly have no idea how we would have made it through those years.”
The kids and the grandkids are in school, learning new things every day. But what should the rest of us do to keep our brains active and alert? We’ve all heard that we can reduce our chances of suffering from dementia in our golden years by eating right, maintaining our cardiovascular fitness through aerobic activities and weight training, and by exercising our brains.
How do we exercise our brains? Well, it’s not just by doing crossword puzzles. Yes, crossword puzzles are good, but according to Dr. Marie Pasinski, a Harvard Medical School neurologist who wrote our book about boosting your brainpower, they are more of a routine occupation than a brain exercise. Exercising your brain means doing things that are new and different such as learning to play a musical instrument or visiting a foreign country, and everyday things like volunteering and having an active social life.
Dr. Pasinski included an essay by Jennie Ivey called “Get Out of That Rut!” in her brainpower book. It provides some practical, easy ideas for waking up our brains as we go about our daily activities. I’ve tried a couple of the suggestions already — shopping at different grocery stores and using my left hand to do things like brush my teeth. Here are a few more of Jennie’s ways to stimulate your brain:
• Tie your shoelaces a different way.
• Watch a television show that’s broadcast in a foreign language.
• Drive to work using a different route.
• Reverse the order in which you read the newspaper.
• Get dressed in the dark.
• Thread your belt through the loops in the opposite direction.
• Put your earrings on in reverse order.
• Kick a soccer ball with your non-dominant foot.
• Walk backward for 100 steps.
Charles Dickens, who was a prolific writer his whole life, said, “Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.” And that’s the message I take away from Dr. Pasinski’s book. We have to make our brains uncomfortable, so that they stretch and adapt and create new neural pathways. It is so tempting to fall into a rut and follow the same patterns of behavior day after day. I know I enjoy my routines, but at age 56 I don’t want to get too comfortable. So if you see a little toothpaste on my shirt, you’ll know I’ve been trying to brush left-handed again.
Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com