In memory of my mother, Nancy Sutcliffe, who passed away in early February 2016 from dementia-related causes, I want to share some of my best, heart-felt memories of her with you: From Hawaii to Arkansas: My mother was a strong-willed-inside and soft-spoken-outside tiny 5' lady of Japanese American decent who was raised on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was one of a few fortunate Japanese Americans to not have been put into an internment camp during WWII, but were carefully watched anyway, as I vividly recall seeing an old black and white photo of her with a soldier standing nearby. Regardless of my claims, my mother was fiercely proud to be American and never admitted to being treated as an outsider. After the war, she travelled to Chicago, where she met my father, and gave birth to my older sister, brother and I. My family eventually moved "out of the rat race" to St. Louis, and then to Eureka Springs, Arkansas where my paternal grandparents had retired. The family homestead included several acres of lush green pastures and woodlands, and so my father was determined to use this land to become a farmer while earning a meager living as a schoolteacher. We raised goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs, grew a garden and picked apples, pears and peaches from our trees to "live off the land". Life was hard on the farm, but it taught me a lot about nature, animal life and about sacrifices my mother made in her life in order to devote herself to nurture and care for her family. When mom aged and had to go into an Assisted Living Community, she refused my offer to come live in Connecticut with me and my husband saying: "Arkansas is my home." She was always loyal. Church, Farm, and Home: I had two pairs of shoes growing up: One for farming and one for school, but my mother let us purchase a new pair of shoes each spring for Easter Sunday and special occasions. I looked forward to that time when I could open and smell the freshly printed pages of Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward to select my new shoes! We went to church almost every Sunday, and I loved being able to put on a pretty dress that my mother would often make, wear my new shoes and get treated to fruit punch and cake in the hall afterwards. My mother often sewed our dress clothes on her black metal Singer Sewing Machine and I would stand next to her and watch as her hands guided the fabric for stitching, while smelling the warmth and inimitable odor of the machine's engine while it its needle worked with the pressure of her foot of the peddle. Our home was small and simply furnished, and like many homes our lives were spent mostly in the kitchen which was the hub of most activities, and where the smell of my mother's coffee percolating became our alarm clock each morning. The aroma of coffee meant that it was the start of another day and time to get dressed, then go to the barn and tend to our selected chores of milking goats, feeding the pigs, rabbits and chickens and collecting eggs. My siblings and I would often argue about what chores we had to do, and so it was my mother who was the referee, the coach and the judge on who was to do what. Barns have bad odors and I was particularly happy to leave them behind when I left the farm for New York to search for a career in fashion. Although those odors were left behind, they are immediately recalled whenever I take road trips to the countryside, and can usually decipher whether I am passing a pig, chicken, or cattle farm just by its smell. My mother made all meals and desserts in our kitchen from scratch. We seldom used anything that came in a box or a can, unless it was winter time and all of our frozen vegetables or stock of preserved fruits were consumed. Planting season came when father turned the soil and we'd go and plant seeds in allocated plots of almost every vegetable imaginable. Summertime meant going out to weed nuisances like alfalfa grass that choked the young growing vegetable plants, so pulling i...
Science Daily's on line magazine has reported that neuroscientists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany have investigated which brain area is responsible for storing odours as long-term memories. As a scent expert, and daughter in law of a woman who suffers from Alzheimer's it gives me great satisfaction that scientists seem to be focusing more on studying the sense of smell and its link to memories. The impact and prompting of memories through smells has been evident to me during the 15 months I have been giving smell therapy sessions at assisted living facilities and senior centers to raise awareness of the importance of the sense of smell in our lives. With more than 550 attendees, I have been witness to quite a few recalls that would probably not have been prompted had it not been for the smells that I administered. Some examples: One woman at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale was prompted by the smell of fresh cut grass, but connected the smell with the memory of making pumpkin pie from scratch. She described in detail her process of taking out the threads and seeds within the pumpkin as it had been yesterday! Another woman who did not speak at all during a session all of sudden spoke out and stated that she had a lilac bush next to her house. She did not say where her house was, but the smell of lilac in the session prompted this memory. It was that one moment, and moments like that can be precious. The sense of smell is often taken for granted, and I believe it's so important to make sure you practice smelling every day in a mindful way: Breath in... smell the coffee or tea you drink in the morning, the food you eat, your skin, your leather jacket and build up your olfactory memory bank! To read the Scientific Daily article, please go to this link: <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171222092552.htm>
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it signifies family togetherness and sharing what we are thankful for. But Thanksgiving shouldn't be the only day we express our gratefulness -- it should be every day. I am forever thankful to companies like Firmenich, Orlandi, Givaudan, Mane USA and Symrise who believed in me and my product concept when I presented the Essential Awakenings Smell and Memory tool kit idea in 2016. I also thank Atria of Stamford, River House of Cos Cob, The Greens of Greenwich, and The Hebrew Home at Riverdale who embraced the innovative sensory program I developed with the goal of enriching the lives of the elderly through the sense of smell. It was through these smelling sessions that allowed me to develop the best kit I felt would benefit caregivers, families and the program directors at senior homes. I am also grateful to my husband who supported the product idea from the very beginning and encouraged me to continue when things were challenging. Finally, all of us should be thankful for the scientists who are studying the causes of Alzheimer's and the caretakers of our loved ones who suffer from the disease. So for this day and always, I hope that you will share your own sentiments for what you are thankful for and cherish your elders for what they have done and taught us. November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness month, and so for today until the end of the month, The Scent Guru Group will be offering 20% off of all purchases. Consider a purchase that would be a gift to the entire family.
I had 12 seniors in my smelling session this AM at River House in Cos Cob, CT! Some adjectives used when smelling their paper strips: "sweet" "it's nice" "soft" "strong" "clean" "powdery" "vanilla" & "chewing gum". From the session, we talked about smell memories from baking, Christmas, and about how much we all liked ice-cream and chocolate. Storytelling is a big part of smelling sessions, and is an easy way to engage our seniors in conversation. Today, I talked about how rose, jasmine, ylang and iris are picked by hand by farmers for use in perfumery.
Here is a good article on smell and memory. The scent of Almond Croissants takes me back to a little patisserie in Le Chesnay France, where I used to buy baguettes & sweet snacks for my girls. What are some of your smell memories?