We Are Not in Charge, But We Can Make a Difference

We Are Not in Charge, But We Can Make a Difference

I read newspapers and magazines and online articles. I’m constantly soaking up information and feel fortunate that I have the time to educate myself, to evaluate what I read and how I feel about what is happening in the world. Words are powerful. But it’s absolutely true: a picture is worth a thousand words. 

THOSE THOUSAND WORDS

Recently, I saw the above photo–two fathers carrying their infants in their arms. Compelling, love abounding in this TIME MAGAZINE photograph, despite the rubble, the destroyed street somewhere in Aleppo in Syria. The photo pulls me in. Photos do that. But after reading and looking, I turned the page. I could do that. I could look away. But this particular photo stayed with me. So I am writing about it–the thoughts it engenders.

ONE DAY YOU’RE UP, THE NEXT DAY YOU’RE DOWN

Autumn is coming, winter is coming. Here in the United States streets are not bombed into rubble, but there are floods and tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes that destroy.

I love living on this earth, but part of being here means struggle–for some it is all consuming, for others they are hardly touched. For some of you reading this right now: a loved one is ill, a friend recently died, an adult child is out of work or—-you just got a huge raise, purchased tickets to tour the world, bought a boat. I don’t know–these are random thoughts. But life is random. Like the song says, one day you’re up and the next day you’re down.

FAITH, LOVE, HOPE

So what are the constants: the earth turning on its axis, the change in seasons, birth, death, aging. They are always with us. AND SO IS WISDOM–the thoughts and ideas that are ours and others reaching out and providing us with BELIEF in what we can do, LOVE for what we have done and HOPE in the days to come.

I am certain, that if the fathers in the photo were asked what we could do to help them, outside of insuring peace in that warring country, they would have asked for food. Maybe they would have gone beyond that and asked for a small plot of land outside the terror of the bombs, a place to plant for food and maybe create a shelter so that they could maintain their families away from the chaos. That’s whittling down life to the bare essentials. That’s putting the seed in the ground to discover hope for the future. But that is what it means to be human.

So I come back again to the change of seasons, to the coming of autumn and winter–which ironically will not touch me as much as it did when I lived in the Midwest. Then I enjoyed putting the garden to bed, making sure the outside spigots wouldn’t freeze and that I had shovels for the snow and good tires on my car. Now I pray for winter rains in the drought that is California. But nature always gives you something. So we humans evaluate and try to prepare.

WISDOM: Frost reminds us that we’re not in charge, after all.  How do we let go?  Laugh at our failures, but don’t repeat them…Observe. Learn. Let go.

These are the words of Jane McKeon and she is writing about gardening, but her words mean more. We all experience life changes that affect our physical and spiritual health. Sometimes we are happy for these changes, other times we pray that they will soon end. In the latter case we can clench our teeth, let our back muscles grip in pain, lash out at those around us, or we can let go. It’s challenging, but such times call for examining our failures, discovering what might have contributed to them, and trying not to repeat them.

There will be frost—we are not in charge. And snow and drought and tornadoes etc. But we can live happier, better lives if we find something about change that strengthens us. A broken arm, painful and inconvenient, is not life threatening. It can create a lasting appreciation for that body part, and for the people who do the littlest thing to help us weather that cycle. Just as the relationships formed with strangers during a crisis changes how people feel about those very strangers.

On a different note, it’s totally challenging to find anything good in a job loss. That’s a change that requires we all remember: attitude is everything and stress can tear a family apart or ruin a person’s health. In such a time of struggle, for our own health and the health of our families, we have to let go and let others help us. And of course we have to help ourselves: observe, learn, not repeat our failures. That’s how we will weather such a season. It’s a cumulative process, one we will get better at as we live.

THERE WILL BE FROST AND SORROW AND JOY  

Jane’s words are words of wisdom. For your own spiritual and physical health, accept the flow of the seasons in your life. Weather the springs and autumns and you’ll be ready for the winters when they come. Let Go, Let God –or whatever god or spiritual practice you believe in. After frost and snow comes spring. And when you can: be grateful and reach out to others. Little by little we can draw closer to one another. We can make a difference.

Photo Credit: www.haaretz.com Photo taken by Ameer Alhalbi AFP/Getty Images

You’re A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc

You're A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc

The health of the two candidates running for president has certainly been in the news. But the question is–how do you find a good doctor if you’ve just moved or if you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition or something else that requires a specialist? Word of mouth is very often the way someone starts the process, but how one doctor relates and helps your friend might not be the best choice for you. And you don’t want to waste your time and possibly your health simply starting out with any doctor and finding that down the road you made a hasty and wrong choice.

WHEN YOU START THE SEARCH

First keep these two things in mind:

  1. know what type of insurance you have and if there are any limitations connected to that insurance. Some plans send you a booklet of doctors in their network. You are limited to those.
  2. YELP and other internet reviews of physicians are often driven by a patient who didn’t improve. The complaint might be related to the doctor’s care, but it also could be related to how compliant the patient was. Something to consider.

Second, when searching for a new physician after a move or a diagnosis, make a list of the things that you truly want in this future doctor and the provided care you are seeking. Here’s a list to consider:

  1. What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital–all or one?? Is this physician’s office and the hospital where she has privileges close to your home or a long drive? In an emergency situation closer will always be better.
  2. Is this doctor board certified in the speciality that you need? Internal medicine board certification is a good place to start if your general health is good. But you may need a cancer or cardiac specialist etc, and that will narrow your choices. (Note: often getting an internist in a university group is the best way to go as that physician can then refer you to say an ear, nose and throat, a surgeon or an orthopedic doctor etc in his group.)
  3. If you have trouble speaking English, that’s also a consideration. It’s always good if you are terribly worried about your physical health or running a fever or vomiting or a cancer patient etc that you bring someone with you to your appointment. But it’s not always possible and if language is an issue, you need to make sure you will always be able to communicate with your doctor. Misinformation can lead to your getting sicker or even hospitalization and death.
  4. The age of the doctor you choose or his or her years in practice might also be on your list of concerns. Some people want an older doctor who they feel they would be more comfortable with or who would know more. Others want a younger doctor who will be up on new advances in medicine. All physicians are required to stay up-to-date in their specialty through reading and testing and participating in hands-on programs for recertification.
  5. The gender of your physician might also concern you. (Certainly in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology there has been a major shift–more women in that practice now than men.) But that shouldn’t rule out the skill of male OBGYN’S. When my husband created this list and followed it, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
  6. It’s very important to discover if the doctor you are researching is taking on new patients. You might get all excited that you’ve found one, only to discover the practice is closed.
  7. Once you have found one or two you are considering, you can verify their board certification here. You can also go to your home state department of consumer affairs to check for any negative reports about this doctor.
  8. And of course you can Google them. Most doctors will have an online presence, often with a personal photo, phone number, office hours and map to get you to their office.

THE INTERVIEW

My husband has specific health issues, so after doing his research he made an appointment with the doctor he was considering, telling her receptionist that he wanted to interview the doctor. Here’s what he learned at that first meeting:

  • she was on time and open to discussing his health needs;
  • he brought his medical history with him so that she could examine lab results etc and understand his past and present health;
  • he determined that she had excellent listening skills and she did not rush him;
  • at the end of that 45 minute meeting, she also made a referral for him as he had another health issue that needed immediate attention.

Botom line? He had made the right choice and her care of him has been excellent.

PERSONAL CRITERIA

So what criteria is important to you when choosing a doctor? It will vary from person to person, but for me, I have to feel that the doctor values me as an individual and will take the time, if only five minutes, to discuss my concerns. I recently changed a specialist, because the tests I needed had been scheduled way down the road and I wanted information sooner than later. Maybe I panicked a little, but I am very happy with this new doctor who did all the tests that first appointment.

I have also found that being informed and prepared for a doctor visit just might be noted in your chart–you’ll become a so-called favorite patient. So on your end, a few things to do:

  1. be on time and if you are delayed or cannot make an appointment CALL;
  2. bring your list of medications with you;
  3. bring a list of your concerns with you and don’t wait until the appointment is almost over to say I’ve had some serious chest pain!
  4. if you have to wait, try to be patient; WHY? because your doctor is dealing with another patient who just said “I’ve had some serious chest pain” or something like that.

One final thought. Often your condition will move you to do some internet research before you walk into the doctor’s office. That’s okay. As a nurse, I have done that for years. But a few things to keep in mind to cement a good working relationship with your doctor:

  1. WAIT. Let your doctor explain first what she feels is your diagnosis. Don’t walk in waving a piece of paper with YOUR conclusion about your case. As the appointment proceeds, use what you have learned on the internet to further explore your condition and ask questions. Depending on the site you used, you might be totally off. And building a good relationship with your physician requires TRUST. To make it very basic, when you have an electrical or plumbing problem in your home, you are eager to have the technician tell you what’s wrong. Most of us don’t research electricity and plumbing before this person arrives. Give your doctor the floor.
  2. WAIT again. Yes, I’ve had concerns about my health and brought in that piece of paper with my questions or some info from the net. But I ease my way into the question and often before I can even ask it–she’s answered it.

So I’m wishing you the best as you continue your relationship with your doctor or find a new one. The ground work you do is extremely important. You are a candidate for good health and hopefully once you have done your research, the doctor you choose will get your vote.

Thanks to my husband and to Val Jones, founder and CEO of Better Health

You're A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc

Photo www.carp.ca

Cartoon www.indigogo.com

Using “STORY” To Support Facts

Using "STORY" To Support Facts

Story telling is powerful. Presenting an argument using a story is the first step to winning that argument and possibly getting others to follow our thinking. It’s basic psychology. It’s understanding how the brain works. Story is universal. WE LOVE STORY! But the story doesn’t always tell the truth.

Author Lisa Cron provides a succinct analysis in her Ted Talk, Wired for Story. She relates how we believe things over time because of the stories we have heard–her example: “women are responsible for a clean house.” She believed this story because every cleaning commercial she had ever seen showed women using the product.  Eventually she realized the story wasn’t true for many reasons–but it helped her understand its power. Story is emotion. We evaluate life and our choices through the emotion of story and we have to FEEL something in order to make choices: our spouse, our home, our clothing etc. Story is the reason our ancestors knew NOT to eat the red berries. Because someone died and the stories got passed along. Cron points out that story is often how we survive.

The message in THE LION KING? You either run from the past (the story) or you learn from it. How you think about a story is always related to how you feel about it.

In her Ted Talk, Cron mentions TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee, underlining that the author used “story” to move us in a different direction so that as a people we could combat decades of racism in American culture. That novel, that story about Scout Finch, a young girl living in American’s South, changed many people’s hearts and cut into the formidable stain of racism. Cron says: “You aren’t reading about Scout, you are Scout. Story takes you there.”

Former First Lady, Laura Bush, said that Lee’s book was a prime example of how words can create strong ideas and impact the mindset of readers for decades. All the scholarly facts and figures about race might not have had as profound an effect as the words of Atticus Finch and Scout in that  story.

When you boldly think about it, racism is a learned pattern of thinking that humans become exposed to through story–while they are growing up. It’s like young Thomas or Claire deciding not to like Uncle Dennis, because of all the stories they’ve heard from their family: Dennis swears, always wears the same shirt, has been known to tell dirty jokes and once stayed with the family for a week and never offered to pay for a meal. But then Thomas and Claire meet Dennis and within an hour discover he’s kind, will play ball out in the yard and knows more about science exploration than anyone. He’s not a bad guy–he’s just not, for reasons the kids can’t figure out, a family favorite. Story is powerful and you might still not like certain people in your life because of a STORY you once heard about them.

Now think about someone you’ve met who is against vaccines, telling a story about a child she knew getting autism from being vaccinated. In the book, DENYING TO THE GRAVE, WHY WE IGNORE the FACTS THAT WILL SAVE US, Sara and Jack Gorman explore story as a means to understand and then counteract harmful lies. They relate that we should not dismiss and walk away from people who deny facts. Instead, we should be challenged to counteract their beliefs. (WOW. Just think about the present political climate, everything resting on it, and all the lies floating around. THAT’S a CHALLENGE.)

The writers of DENYING TO THE GRAVE have found that when it comes to believing in science, we humans are uncomfortable with an event that does not have a clear cause–like autism–so we tend to fill in the gaps ourselves. Being emphatic creatures who can learn human understanding from the story of Scout Finch, we might deny science after hearing the story “you get autism from vaccines.” And we might stay there. The story has power, creates images in the imagination that statistics cannot always overcome.

Story is power and that’s why writers in widely read publications like TIME MAGAZINE, begin a news article by zooming in on ONE PERSON that story has affected. We readers immediately find our brains connecting with that ONE PERSON and so the facts begin to stick with us–the smart writer leaving the statistics for later, after the empathetic part of your brain has already been hooked.

DENYING THE GRAVE concludes that instead of chastising folks for their belief in a story,  we should figure out why we are drawn to this story in the first place and work to change minds with compassion and understanding–not disdain.

I challenge all of us to do that every day. When we hear stories that fall on our ears as lies, we should attempt a kind response, one that draws empathy from our listener, one that might be part of our own personal story, one that helps build a STORY for the truth.

Photo Credit: www.mlparentcoach.com

Using "STORY" To Support Facts

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

If you ask the evolutionary question: why do women continue to live after they are no longer able to bear, birth and breastfeed children, you come up with a researched and very interesting answer. They continue to be part of the evolutionary plan because they become grandmothers. And that is terribly important.

THE GRANDMOTHER HYPOTHESIS

In the 1980s, anthropologist Kristin Hawkes and her colleagues studied the Hadza tribe, the last known hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Africa. Their findings:

1. the tribe’s old women did not just rest, they worked, digging up a deeply-buried tuber which provided the main source of starch for the tribe’s diet.

2. though the young women also dug for the tubers, the older women spent more time at this task, leaving early in the morning and coming back late in the evening.

3. and because of the presence of this food in the diet, the grandchildren of these older women had better growth rates.

From these observations, came the “grandmother hypothesis.” Simply stated: women past childbearing age help not just their children, but their children’s children. They strengthen the genealogy of the family, insuring that the line will continue. Having such a role or purpose eventually lengthened their own life span. When no longer required to carry an infant around, they were freed up to do work that helped their progeny. And very importantly, by foraging for more food, they prevented their grandchildren from dying. All generations were aided as the lengthening of the life span was then passed on.

The researchers added that the “grandmother hypothesis” clarified why humans are able to have children in quick succession, whereas in other species there are long gaps. Example: chimp mothers wait 5 or 6 years to give birth to another neonate. But with tribal grandmothers available, the younger women could continue to have children. This collaborative child-rearing allowed the young woman to focus on the next baby while the grandmother took care of the toddlers.

In her piece in the New Republic that analyzes the “grandmother hypothesis” Judith Shulevitz writes of another very positive reason for grandmothers –As the grandmother effect spread throughout the population over thousands of generations, it changed humans in another way. It made their brains bigger. As life lengthened, so did each stage of it. Children stayed children longer, which let their brains develop a more complex neural architecture.

WHY GRANDPARENTING IS SO IMPORTANT

It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century, says Roma Hanks PhD. There is much to substantiate that claim. In a society where many women have to work or choose to work, daycare centers, schools and grandparents often replace the role of the parent. Hanks is referring to the gifts that grandparents can bring to children whose parents are stressed and often emotionally unavailable because of work schedules and the worry of providing basic needs. In these cases and in families where life flows more easily, grandparents are vital in helping a family thrive.

Children need guidance, love and someone to listen to their fears and worries. Grandparents easily become that source and a bond forms, allowing for future communication.
Grandparents can babysit, allowing stressed moms and dads a chance to get away and relate to one another.
Grandparents can relate family stories, creating a history that forges a bond and provides a child with a sense of place and security.
Grandparents can be a source of information, providing advice, guidance and just plain helping out–like locating the phone number of a doctor.
Grandparents can be role models for their children’s parenting and for their grandchildren’s relationships with others. The love and gentleness found in the home is the first step to forming good citizens of the world who will have their own relationships and build their own families in the decades ahead.
In the end, grandparents can offer a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, or gentle reassurance to both their children and their grandchildren.

CHILDREN OF DEPRESSED MOTHERS

Kate Fogarty, PhD, stressed the importance of the protective role grandparents can play when grandchildren are cared for by a depressed mother. Her research showed that the formation of loving bonds between grandparents and those children could help develop positive behavior, increase cognitive development and prevent behavioral problems. She even went so far as to say that the possibility of the depression being passed to these children could be broken by the grandparent/grandchild relationship–a win win.

And though Fogarty’s research was with grandparents, certainly the role of loving aunts, uncles and friends will always make a positive difference in a child’s life.

IT IS TRULY ALL ABOUT FAMILY

There’s the familiar line: “If I’d known how wonderful it is to have grandchildren, I would have had them first.” What is that all about? Probably that with grandchildren comes experience, confidence in the role to be played, freedom from the harder aspects of child-rearing and the amazing chance to see once again the future in a child’s eyes.

Certainly some grandparents have more nitty-gritty responsibility for their grandchildren than others. Some are doing much of the raising and rearing. Some show up only for the fun times, like birthdays and holidays.

But hopefully most grandparents find the middle acceptable ground–they are eager to role up their sleeves and help when needed and they are always desirous of telling family stories, reading well-loved books, taking exploratory walks or singing well-loved songs. It’s a little like reliving your parenting. It’s a lot like looking into the future and once again having that uplifting feeling of knowing something of you will live on. That’s truly important.

Celebrate Grandparents day, Sunday, September 11th, 2016

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

Thanks to Google Images and grandparents.about.com

Here’s A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

Here's A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

I’m working to lose a few pounds right now and one of my favorite advisers for this is Dr. Roxanne Sukol, who blogs at YOUR HEALTH IS ON YOUR PLATE. Which in many ways says it all. So if you’re like me and thinking about shedding some weight, let’s explore what might be working against us. Here’s a check list.

  • First think about the very last meal you had. If you grabbed a quick lunch or dinner out, that’s a problem, as when we do that we often have no idea what is ON THAT PLATE–well in terms of corn syrup which Sukol reminds us is in almost everything. We are getting hidden sugar that spikes insulin and packs on fat. Corn syrup is in: yogurt, breads, ice cream, salad dressings, sodas and sports drinks, muffins, non-dairy coffee whiteners, and if you love dark chocolate like I do, and eat it thinking you are being virtuous, corn syrup is even in some dark chocolate.
  • Read labels. I’m in trouble here and need to do a lot more. I insist on a certain brand of peanut butter (which I eat almost daily) because is has NO SUGAR. But I need to do more.
  • Portion control is a major problem in the United States. When I was growing up, portions were so much smaller than they are now. As a wealthy country, we seem to use size as a metaphor for success–bigger houses, for a while bigger cars, and certainly increased portion size. Sukol points out a few changes, some you will be aware of: bagels have tripled in size since the 1960s. There’s always room for dessert. You can get a bucket of soda for ten cents more, so why wouldn’t you?
  • Super size is not the answer. Everyone of us can feel full by eating healthy foods. Healthy solutions to fighting hunger include: fiber, fat, and protein. Fruits and vegetables and beans are delicious and filling. Fat is flavorful and satisfying. Protein keeps you going. Want more info on fat, Sukol’s latest post is here.  
  • Your weight gain might also be attributed to irregular sleep patterns which can derail your weight loss efforts. Sukol suggests learning about “sleep hygiene” to see if you are doing something that is actually making it worse. Are you finding it hard to fall asleep because you can’t turn off your mind? Do you wake up in the early morning hours and have difficulty returning to sleep? Maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep, period.
  • Reconsider the bedtime snack. Sukol reminds us that eating a big bowl of cereal before bed (which I have often done to keep my blood sugar level) or a peanut butter sandwich or a candy bar IS A PROBLEM. Her suggestion: Start working on this issue by trying to eat a bigger breakfast and lunch, thereby getting in more calories earlier in the day. You may still want a nighttime snack, but make it healthier and one that does include fiber. Her suggestion: berries which are sweet and satisfying, but low in practically everything else (except fiber). 
  • Sleep hygiene also includes:
  1. avoiding a nap during the day;
  2. avoiding stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and even alcohol, especially late in the day. Though the latter is know to lead you into sleep, research shows that it interrupts sleep as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol;
  3. exercise can promote sleep, but vigorous should be done earlier in the day and relaxing, like yoga, nearer to sleep hours;
  4. maintain daily light exposure so that when night comes, your body is aligned with the  pattern that darkness means sleep; (Note that people who work night shifts like nurses and other first responders, often have difficulty controlling their weight.)
  5. associate your bed with sleep and create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.

You might have discovered your own methods to control your weight or to lose weight when it sneaks up on you. Please share. Or keep this post and decide how some of Sukol’s ideas might apply to you. Start thinking about the one that resonates the most. Because like anything we attempt–it cannot happen over night. So here are last words to consider:

  • one step at a time,
  • one day at a time,
  • one issue at a time.

There are NO QUICK FIXES. Progress is achieved when we set realistic goals. I’m going to start with changing my bedtime snack. What are you going to do?

 Dr. Roxanne Sukol can be found at YOUR HEALTH IS ON YOUR PLATE.

Here's A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

Photo Credits: www.traceone.com   www.skinnymon.com

A Science Update from a Very Young Source

A Science Update from a Very Young Source

Since he was three, my grandson has been into garbage. At birthday parties he was often more interested in the discarded wrappings than the gift. And boxes? One year while his sister was opening her gifts, he was quietly gathering all the empty boxes and secreting them in his room. There he would stack them or fill them with toys or use them to contain the other things he had gathered–ribbons and tape and crumbled balls of paper. Let me emphasize, he has a wonderful, understanding and very patient mother.

Of course the next step was garbage trucks. He received two that were predominately labeled as trucks for recycling. He got the concept with no problem and with this awareness for his fourth birthday, a friend gave him a video about recycling. He truly enjoyed it and watched it over and over, always intent on sharing it with visitors.

The arrival of the garbage and recycling trucks on Monday morning became a big event–a routine that he looked forward to. Hearing the approaching trucks, he and his mom would go outside and wave to the driver, Santos. This became such a ritual, that when I was visiting and my grandson was occupied elsewhere, Santos waved to me and yelled: “Say hi to Brennan for me.” Loved that.

So when my grandson’s fourth birthday rolled around, I wrote to Waste Management and they actually created a HAPPY BIRTHDAY card for Brennan, citing Santos and saying, of course, that they so appreciated our business! The letter was a big hit at his birthday celebration.

Now Brennan is almost six. Last Sunday he told me: “We need a garbage truck up in space. We need to start collecting garbage in space.” And then today the following headline appeared in the LA TIMES:  SPACE JUNK PROBLEMS SPURS WILD SOLUTIONS. Was some reporter eavesdropping on our conversation? For I immediately jumped into this discussion with him, sharing the little knowledge of the problem I had, probably from the movie GRAVITY more than any other source. In the film, space junk crashes into human-run space vehicles causing damage and even death.

But there we were, Brennan and I, discussing this problem and how to solve it. We got so animated that after a moment I noticed that some folks on the other side of the room were listening to our conversation. I lowered my voice. I have little knowledge of these things, but realized that again–Brennan was interested and to keep up I better educate myself.

One solution: that of Aerospace Corp. states that they would blast thousands of tiny flat spacecraft into orbit to find and hug the bits and pieces of failed satellites and rockets, then drag them into the atmosphere where they would burn up. Wow.

J.C. Liou, who is the NASA chief scientist for orbit debris states that there are more than 7.000 metric tons of material in the near-Earth space environment. Such material can slam into a satellite or spacecraft going six miles per second, so that there is fear that debris the size of a sand grain could be catastrophic.

Another idea: a giant net that would be able to gather space junk and then set off a bomb to knock all of it out of orbit. But certainly finding the technology to clean up space is only part of the problem. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command of which the United States and Canada are a part, are tracking 22,000 pieces of space debris, but only 16,000 of these pieces can be traced to the state or and owner who launched the vehicle or craft where the debris came from. Cleanup needs to be legally run. There are liability issues pertaining to someone else’s JUNK.

Here’s a statement by Brian Weedon of the Secure World Foundation. His words could provide a possible scenario for a film or a book: “Let’s say that you have Bob’s Debris Removal service and you go up there and your mission is to grapple with this rocket body, grab a hold of it and deal with it somehow, and in the process of doing so it explodes because it’s got leftover fuel inside.” Wow again. I wish I felt capable of writing in the science fiction genre–but the scariest part is that this stuff is real and presents real problems. It’s fascinating and yet so complicated.

In our world today, there is so much information swirling around us, things to consider, to worry about or to be excited about. But if my grandson can be considering this issue of space junk at his young age, I’m thinking he just might be part of some think tank that figures it out–maybe much sooner than later. And I applaud Brennan and other children like him–they don’t get stuck on one idea. There minds roam and come up with more STUFF and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch. After all, they are THE FUTURE.

photo: thespacereporter.com    cartoon: www.davidreneke.com  www.pinterest.com

A Science Update from a Very Young Source

 

A Science Update from a Very Young Source

 

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

We’ve heard it over and over, but it’s still a truism, having a father is good for a girl. Having a father provides a girl with love and protection, encouragement and a relationship that is just WELL different, from what moms provide. Yes, there are troubled relationships between girls and their mothers and they could also occur between girls and their fathers. But for a girl to grow up and navigate the world of love and sex, marriage and children, or having children with a man without benefit of marriage, that father figure if he is loving and understanding, supportive and open-minded, can truly give that girl a head start. And if he is not?

Maybe he has only one of the above qualities. I don’t meant to describe the perfect father that maybe doesn’t exist. But I do believe a girl’s presence in a man’s life can soften his edges, open his eyes to the future of all of his dealings with women in a way no one else can. His daughter is the FUTURE of womanhood–as he relates to it. And he wants the best for her. Yes, he wants that for his wife, but caught in the constraints of time–he now sees more for his daughter. He sees change and advancement stretching out into the future and he routes for her. He begins to believe that girls, just like boys, can thrive.

This all might sound dated. You’re thinking–things have changed–all men are aware of the importance of fathering their daughters. We don’t need songs about it, like Billy Bigelow singing in the musical comedy, Carousel.

You can have fun with a son, But you gotta be a father to a girl.
She mightn’t be so bad at that, A kid with ribbons in her hair!
…But my little girl Gets hungry ev’ry night and she comes home to me!

Both parents prepare for their children and want to do the best for them. But life gets in the way. Families are so different now–with step-fathers and absent fathers and fathers raising children with no mother. The ability to fly from coast to coast, take jobs in different places or work remotely via the internet has also affected the composition of the family. Sometimes the mother is the constant, but sometimes it’s the father. That’s great, as long as there is a constant.

My father died when I was three. But I had a mother who was so loving and understanding, who put her children first, always, that I turned out all right. There were uncles in my life, fathers of my friends. They helped me see how fatherhood worked. Once, my father took me to see his brother, my uncle. But the man had a new television and was more interested in talking about how it worked. My mother related this little story more than once–how my dad came home with me in his arms and said to my mother: THEY JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT WE HAVE HERE. That’s father-love. I felt it then and it  sustained me through the years at some level, because I turned out all right.

The protective role of the father is needed more than ever in a world of Face Book and photo sharing, pornography and the sexualization of young girls. Readers might remember  when five-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in the basement of her family’s Colorado home on December 26, 1996. JonBenet participated in child beauty pageants, because her mother had been a beauty queen and supposedly JonBenet wanted to echo what her mother did.

In an interview in 2012 her father, John Ramsey, reacting to the popularity of the reality television show TODDLERS AND TIARAS, said that letting his daughter compete in pageants is something he regrets. “Only because- that possibly might have drawn attention to us. I don’t know. But-  I think for- for advice to a parent is just recognize that- regardless of where you live, there- there could be evil around you. And- and don’t be naive about it. And keep your kids protected.” Even in death, that’s hard to do as a television series about JonBenet’s life and death will be airing soon.

Writer Naomi Schaefer Riley took a hard look at the reality show TODDLERS AND TIARAS. She wrote: One father, who had a rap sheet of drug and alcohol abuse, sued for custody of his daughter. The girl, now 6, was a regular on the pageant circuit, where she appeared dressed as Dolly Parton, complete with padded bra and enhancements for her rear end. Apparently, her father wasn’t happy about this.

Thousands of girls appear in these pageants, along with hundreds more on television shows glamorizing the whole culture of miniaturized sex objects. Last year, one of the 3-year-olds on the Toddlers & Tiaras reality show dressed up as Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman, before Richard Gere sent her on a shopping spree. Another little girl appeared singing Sexy and I Know It at a nightclub.

(My milllennial son was so upset about this he wrote a song about it.) I can’t imagine this for my daughters and granddaughters. I didn’t even like them watching the film Pretty Woman when it came out in 1990 and they were sixteen and twelve. I recently watched the film again. It is still true fantasy that could never ever happen to a prostitute. And I am sure the film has been used by pimps as a device to lure innocent but desperate girls. But many will still say ah, it’s so light-hearted! Maybe, but crosses a line that’s hard to pinpoint.

In her article Riley stresses the importance of fathers being involved in their daughter’s lives. She states: A protective presence lets girls grow outside the sexualized pressure of our culture. She is so right!

Where once fathers might play ball with their male progeny, now they can pick a sport or an activity that their daughters want to pariticpate in. And if busy work and travel schedules make attending practices difficult (and this can be mothers too) it’s not hard to find time to sit and talk about what a daughter has achieved in gym class or dance, softball or piano. SOMETHING! Attention and time with DAD is what girls need and fathers too. You can’t always know your child while they are part of the larger family crowd. One to one is meaningful and necessary. A game of chess or checkers, a walk, and the always possible drive in the car provides a quiet time to find out what’s going on in your daughter’s head.

Let’s hear it for slowing down the push to grow up; for reaching a plateau of growth that can be celebrated and yet HELD ON TO for awhile. Blink and your daughter (or your son) is beyond your control and you are asking what you did wrong. STOP THE CLOCK. Talk to her. Put her on the pedestal of attention she deserves. Protect her from stupid choices that can bring her sorrow. Love and protection are key. And beauty pageants? She’s beautiful in your eyes. Others eyes can wait until she’s an adult and ready to walk in the wide world.

Thanks to shutterstock.com and storyhighlighto and pinterest.com

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

Sorry-but this is NOT Cute.

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

When traveling to certain places, we move forward with our bodies and backwards in our memories. In other words, we advance into the past. These are the words of essayist Andres Neuman. Sometimes when I am reading, a sentence like this will strike me and I just want to explore it. Haven’t you found that going to a place, eating a certain food, encountering an old piece of clothing sparks and charges your memory? Suddenly you are in a place, looking at the past from where you stand in the present. It has to be the place, food, clothing etc that quickly opens the file drawer where your memory was stored.

Today John and I took a very familiar walk to the duck pond near our home. Maybe because I was thinking about this post, I was suddenly transported back to the ducks swimming on Dolphin Lake in Homewood, Illinois. The visit that stands out was one my husband captured in photographs–our two daughters feeding the ducks. Did that help store the memory? I think so.

Profound feelings of satisfaction filled me during that duck pond visit long ago. The sun was disappearing in the west, the water changing colors because of time of day and the ripples the ducks created in their excitement–food!  As parents we knew we were doing something ordinary, but the faces of our children told us that these were moments they would remember.

(I need to mention at this point that memory is a double-edged sword. I’m very aware of that. Recent research reveals that post-traumatic-stress-disorder,  PTSD, is all about memory–a very negative experience of being dragged back to a place a person does not want to be. It’s powerful and hard to cure. The file drawers of bad memory easily open and there are reasons for that.)

But today, let’s focus on the positive things we can all do to improve memory. Again, the brain is a powerful file cabinet that stores all of our experience. Often being in a new environment can get our synapses to spark even more–so that the storage of memory is enhanced. The drawer opens quickly and the memory is spread out before us–like my vision of our daughters feeding the ducks.

According to Carolyn Gregoire who writes for the Huffington Post, there are other things we can do to keep those file drawers from sticking (takes time for the memory to come) or from opening all together (we totally forget).

  • if you are a visual learner, take advantage of that; visualize the FOUR BEATLES if you have to be somewhere at 4:00 o’clock; I don’t have a photographic memory, but when studying in nursing school I could often remember details of a disease process, let’s say, by remembering where that list was on the printed page.
  • brain games like Lumosity, Suduko and crossword puzzles are credited with their ability to make memory more supple and fine tuned.
  • the Method of Loci or the “memory palace” was Cicero’s tool for enhancing memory. In this technique, you memorize the layout of some building or geographical entity and then assign to each place a memory. (if it were a street of shops, each shop holds one memory) Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the places you have established. Visualizing those places will activate what you need to remember.
  • Baker-Baker. Remembering a person’s name won’t work as well as remembering what he or she does for a living. The test case was used with the name, BAKER. People associated images of baking like pans and measuring cups–more things to help remember the name. A med student applied this principle using the story of Lance Armstrong to remember complex and detailed information about chemotherapy; Armstrong was the “hook” that helped him retrieve the medical details. When trying to remember paragraphs of information, create a “hook” that will act as a strong association to bring up the information more clearly.
  • take a nap; after storing information, resting the brain boosts storage and memory.
  • eat omega-3s that heighten working memory and fight against the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • label people. FDR was able to remember the names of all of his staff, because he literately pictured their names printed on their foreheads. Another researcher suggests assigning a color to that name makes it even easier.
  • and the last one goes without saying and needs little research to back it up: pay attention and avoid distraction. You cannot remember complicated information for an exam if you are also listening to music or watching You-Tube.

At the end of each day, I always run through a list that I created years ago to organize tasks that I need to complete–maybe not every day, but certainly over time. This helps me keep things lined up and I can then have a working schedule of the next day’s tasks or events in my mind. It works. What do you do, Readers, to keep those file drawers sliding open in a flash??  Happy memory.

Thanks to: gailgilette.com; visualspatial.org

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

Taking Those Ten Steps

Taking Those Ten Steps

Ten steps. That is what a twenty-seven year old soldier, Captain Humayun Khan, took–ten steps away from his men and toward a vehicle packed with improvised explosive devices (IED’s). Telling his men to STAY BACK, he approached the vehicle at the gate to a military compound insuring that his moving forward would incite the enemies in the vehicle. They instantly detonated the bombs–his ten steps moved the explosion away from 100 soldiers on one side of the gate and more than 200 people milling the open street on the other side of the gate.

Humayun Khan died. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was buried, like all military heroes, in Arlington National Cemetery.

I learned about this hero from his father, who also shared this: Humayun Khan came to the United States when he was two-years-old. His father said: This country made him what he was.

Those words have stayed with me. Our country, this country, the schools Captain Khan attended, the boys and girls he played with, the neighborhood he lived in, the books about Thomas Jefferson that he read, the ROTC that he joined at the University of Virginia where he earned his college degree–all of this, his father said, MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS. Made him a hero, a man dedicated to his team, a man that made sure that he protected those under his watch. A man who sacrificed for his country.

Captain Khan’s father also used the word STEWARDSHIP. Reader, If you don’t mind, here’s the definition: an ethic that embodies being responsible and protecting something. Khan protected his men and worked to serve his country.

I am proud of my husband’s and my three children, proud of the lives they lead. Proud of the people they have chosen to love and the grandchildren they have produced. And now I have a whole new way of thinking about why they are responsible people who: serve and love their families and friends, work hard to support their lives, continue to educate themselves about life–all aspects of it, protect the environment, help those who need help on many different levels, and have faith and appreciate life’s gifts–nature, art, music, literature.

It’s not simply about what their parents gave them. It’s because they have thrived in an atmosphere of freedom and peace which America has given them. And I know they want that for everyone on our planet.

Captain Khan’s statement that his son is a hero because living here MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS–should be words each of us ponder and hold close. No matter who we are–in all our diverse and amazing ways–we need to now and again TAKE TEN STEPS FORWARD and help someone, compliment someone, weep with someone, and praise someone. And I’ll repeat again what a wise woman once told me–feeling down, confused, angry? Go out and help someone else. It will make your day and beyond.

Photos: CNN

Taking Those Ten Steps

True Memoir: When the Writer Gives You a Gift

And I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don't be afraid. I admire the thoughtful columns of Meghan Daum. Recently she drew an interesting distinction between what writers put into a memoir–stating that it should be an honest report on a life and not a confession. She stated that some writers of memoir treat the form without respect.

“They forget about their audience. They forget that they have a mandate to shape the material into something beyond a diary entry or a rant. They also confuse honesty and confession.” —Salon, January 2013

To simplify, Daum believes

  • a memoir that reads like a confession is asking the reader for something;
  • a memoir that is an honest relating of one’s life is a generous gift, a sharing of a life so the reader will feel less alone.

When I read THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, by Joan Didion, I was transported. Didion worked through the loss of her husband in that book–but she wasn’t asking me to weep for her, she was offering the gift of shared human experience. From her book I wrote my piece THE DAY OF MAGICAL THINKING. I then read her next book, BLUE NIGHTS, about her daughter’s illness and death. I cherish both of these honest and endearing works. Didion from The Year of Magical Thinking:

We all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy. 

So true, and yes lately–we have been reading a great deal about shock and awe on Elm Street. FOR A CHANGE– I’d like to focus on stories that are shockingly wonderful. Stories of success and happiness–because they can happen just as fast as sorrowful events. We all need to work harder at focussing on the positive.

  • So Meghan Daum has a point: let’s focus on those people in our lives who are walking memoirs, the ones who share their lives and their stories with us and give us some joy.
  • They don’t harangue us with negatives, tear down the way we live; they aren’t constantly begging us for attention and complaining about their lot. We do not need their ugly negative thoughts.

Didion was deeply hurting in both of her books; she was in sorrow over the loss of her husband and daughter. But she gave of herself with openness and shared with her readers the JOY of her life, the WONDER of those precious relationships and the POSITIVES of the human experience.

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? It’s more than a diary. It should really be the awakening of memory and the sharing of your soul. When you search Amazon for books on how to write a memoir, there are many to choose from. But this one stands out. Mary Karr, in THE ART OF MEMOIR, writes about memory itself:

Memory is a pinball in a machine–it messily ricochets around between image, idea, fragments of scenes, stories you’ve heard. Then the machine goes tilt and snaps off. But most of the time, we keep memories packed away. I sometimes liken the moment of sudden unpacking to circus clowns pouring out of a miniature car trunk–how did so much fit into such a small space?

I’m no Meghan Daum or Joan Didion, but I did write a memoir over 15 years ago, that like other work I have done is filed in a cabinet. I searched that work today, found a passage that might qualify as GIVING you something–I am certainly not asking for forgiveness or confessing a sin. This goes back to my childhood. I am trying to remember it. Did the clowns spill out of the car trunk?

My mother gives us a record with the story of the PIED PIPER of HAMLIN. I play this over and over. It is a strange story about a town infested with rats, about a piper who can rid the town of these pests, and then, because he is not properly paid for his deed, plays his pipe once more, coaxing the children to follow him out of the town along a winding road, over a hill and eventually into a long tunnel. It leads to a place where the honey bees have lost their sting. This last detail I always remember. It seems to linger with me, the tunnel, the honey bees that don’t sting. I keep picturing all the children in line in the darkness and then emerging into the light at the other end. There are flowers and trees and the warmth of sunshine and these marvelous bees. 

Sometimes, when I lie awake and the hall light is off, I worry that I’ll hear that strange alluring music, that I will disappear into that tunnel. It is in the dark of that bedroom that I discover how dry my lips can get, the existence of uneven spaces between my teeth, the clutching pain of stomach cramps before vomiting. It is the darkness of that room that sheds on me the light of discovery. 

P.S. I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don’t be afraid.