Is The U.S. Having a Panic Attack?

Is The U.S. Having a Panic Attack?

Panic: a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Repeat: wildly UNTHINKING behavior. Did we act like this in 2009? Do you even remember what happened in 2009?  H1N1

In 2009 the United States was faced with an outbreak of a strain of influenza, H1N1, often referred to as the swine flu. The outbreak began the weekend of April 24th when groups of students at a high school in Queens in New York became ill—all at once.


Having just taken a position with the the health department in Des Moines, Iowa, I was immediately called to help prepare for the “pandemic” that was sure to develop. Vaccine had to be prepared to deal with this particular strain of the flu. And to best care for the population, the CDC outlined those who should be vaccinated first: pregnant women, immunocompromised patients and young children. Some people not on that list did panic.


From April through the coming flu season (September 2009 through February 2010), the health department’s focus was H1N1. A special facility was set up to increase the number of clients who could be vaccinated per day. I spent days on the phone answering questions about H1N1, quieting panicked callers and providing dates and times for vaccination. By September 3rd, which was week 35 of the pandemic, H1N1 was widespread in the U.S. specifically affecting 11 states and regional activity in 13. The number of people seeking medical help was above the national baseline. 97% of the viruses being reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.

Facts: H1N1 infected 60.8 million people in the U.S. resulting in 12,469 fatalities. By August 2009, the Pew Research Center found that 45 percent of Americans were worried that they or a family member would contract the disease, women more concerned than men.


H1N1: Again, 60.8 million people in the U.S. were infected with H1N1 – a virus that can survive in the air and be passed through the air in droplet form—thus being highly infectious. Vaccinations reduced the number of people exposed. See HERD IMMUNITY here.

During the H1N1 pandemic, PEW research revealed the following stats: Confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the flu: very confident 18%; somewhat confident 47%. Pew stated: There is virtually no difference in opinion by gender, age or income when it comes to confidence in government, but Democrats are notably more likely to say they are confident in the government’s ability to handle swine flu (76%) than are independents (64%) or Republicans (54%).

Ebola: a virus that is not air-borne, that is passed from direct contact with a symptomatic person’s body fluids—vomit, blood, watery feces. Two nurses who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, patient zero in Dallas Texas, have tested positive for Ebola and treated. Two doctors, an aid worker and a cameraman who worked for Doctors Without Borders in Africa, tested positive for Ebola. They were flown home and treated in the U.S. All are alive. These people got Ebola because they were working directly with very sick patients who were passing copious amounts of infected body fluids.


Now consider this from Danielle Kroll MD: An elementary school teacher in Maine was placed on a 21-day medical leave recently, the incubation period of Ebola, after visiting Dallas to attend a conference that was 10 miles from the hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the U.S. to test positive passed away. Fear of Ebola is distilled in nearly 80 percent of Americans, in a recent poll.

The above is an example of sheer, unthinking behavior–or complete panic. Ebola is not passed through the air. And even if it were, the teacher was 10 miles from the hospital were Thomas Eric Duncan was in isolation. If the elementary teacher was a very close friend of one of the nurses who cared for Duncan and had hugged and touched her right after she removed her PPE (personal protective equipment) coverings in the hospital–you might have cause for concern. Maybe monitoring her for a fever, but certainly not putting her on a medical leave for 21 days. Insane. And this is only one example. So keep in mind: When the perception of risk increases, the feeling of risk increases. 


In May of 2009, researchers from the University of Michigan wanted to see if they could increase the fear of the public for H1N1. The experiment was simple, but mischeivious. Undercover researchers on the Michigan campus approached people, asking them to complete a questionnaire on public health. 50% of the time, the experimenter sneezed in front of the unsuspecting participants. When they evaluated the questionnaires they discovered that the sneeze powerfully manipulated responses. It increased fear in the participant about all things health-related. The researchers concluded: “Those who had just passed a sneezing confederate [i.e., undercover researcher], perceived the average American as more likely to contract a serious disease, to have a heart attack before 50, and to die from a crime or accident.” Those who experienced the sneeze were more negative about the country’s health care system, and more in favor of spending federal dollars on flu prevention. Later, when the sneeze was revealed to the participants they stated they were not aware that they were being manipulated.


And keep in mind that there are always people who will take advantage of fear. Someone might even try to sell you expensive PPE stuff to wear to protect yourself. During 2009, lists of scripts were written for Tamiflu pills from India. Right now someone is trying to make hay from your fears.


Politicians, media folks, people with an agenda line up in a crisis and use your fear to manipulate you–just like the Michigan study above proved. The best way to stay healthy in body is to practice good hygiene and be alert. The best way to stay healthy mentally is to read the science and believe in it. Let the stats underline it. Don’t be fooled. Stay calm, avoid a panic attack and be well.

Some places to read about the science of Ebola and get the TRUE information:

Is The U.S. Having a Panic Attack?

Research. Read. Study. A Current List of Ebola Cases here.

Keep calm, it’s not ebola, but it could be

the flu. Avoid the worry and get your flu shot.


Where Are You on the Happiness Scale?

Where Are You on the Happiness Scale?

There’s a lot going on in the world right now that is negative, depressing or just makes you want to throw up your hands and say why? Yet yesterday, after spending a few hours with neighbors and people I did not know well, I felt uplifted and did something I’ve been told to do since childhood—I counted my blessings. And I decided to shake off negative feelings—a conscious decision. Will I be successful? Will I earn good marks on some happiness scale?


Eckhart Tolle writes that the concept of happiness is actually quite superficial and that peace is deeper and has more meaning in day to day life. He states: Peace is immune to the polarities of life: the highs and lows, the hots and colds, the so-called goods and so-called bads. This is why peace is so crucial.

Tolle acknowledges that there isn’t anyone who goes through life unscathed. We all hurt. We all lose someone or something. And when that happens we cannot feel happiness. But then he asks the question: But do you need to feel in absolute despair? Do you need to feel devastated? 

He says no and promises you won’t feel it’s time to just give up. The reason again is finding peace within. If you are at peace…connected with that deeper level in you, …emotional extremes don’t occur. You’ll have a calm that is not affected by whatever happens in the world, because you have an acceptance and understanding of whatever happens in the world.

An amazing concept, though one that might take much work to achieve. In our culture happiness is prized and pursued as everyone can relate to these familiar words found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


Alex Lickerman, an internal medicine doc at the University of Chicago, conducted a study with patients requiring colostomies (a procedure that would create a major change in one’s elimination system). He found that six months later those patients told the procedure was permanent were happier than those told the procedure was potentially reversible. Why? Lickerman explains: Because uncertainty prevented the latter group from adapting to the change, keeping them focused on and attached to what they still stood to lose. Uncertainty about the future has almost unequaled power to lower our life-condition in the present.  Think: ISSIS, EBOLA, CANCER, UNEMPLOYMENT.

So what do we do? Lickerman found that the converse also seemed to be true—that anticipating something pleasant seems to have almost unequaled power to make our present glow. Anticipatory joy is often greater than the joy brought to us by experiencing the very things we anticipate.

Let’s say that again: the anticipation of the pleasure to be experienced is often more joyful than the experience itself. Do you agree?

You can create your own happiness experiment by keeping a short diary for a week. At the end of each day ask yourself where you might fall on a happiness scale. Then ask yourself if you were looking forward to something that day. Lickerman states that the days with anticipation are probably happier days than those empty and containing nothing to look forward to. He advocates experiencing anticipatory pleasure by planning experiences that give us joy.

He writes: Anticipatory pleasure is so important to my sense of well-being…that I now plan my life in such a way that I almost always have something to look forward to. For me, this can be finishing an interesting blog post, working on my next book, going to a movie or a play with my wife, playing with my son, reading a good book, getting errands done, or even organizing my desk. I’ve learned the activity needn’t be large or significant or meaningful—just something I look forward to, even a little bit.

But Lickerman cautions that this might be hard to achieve if our lives are in a crisis mode and something looming large is depressing us. He also cautions that clinical depression requires clinical help. But on the up side, Lickerman says: …our brains are so constituted that we’re able to feel more than one thing at a time—even diametrically opposed feelings…So even when we’re depressed, placing something in front of ourselves that we look forward to can bring anticipatory pleasure… I’ve been amazed at how much of a boost to my life-condition even a small anticipatory pleasure can bring, even when I’m feeling anxious, sad, or depressed.


Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project would agree that doing errands and being organized are pleasurable activities and contribute to happiness. She cites the concept in law enforcement known as the broken windows theory. It states that we humans take lots of cues from our environment. Translation: if your neighborhood portrays evidence of minor lawbreaking like vandalism, graffiti and piled refuse and people living there fail to right these wrongs, the chance that bigger and more consequential laws will be broken increases. The cure is to immediately address the minor infractions and then people start to behave better. Though a controversial policing theory, Rubin is convinced that it’s true when applied to one’s life.

She writes: There are small indicators of disorder that unleash in us a feeling that things are out of control. Even if the trigger is just a stack of unsorted mail, that feeling begets other, bigger feelings—namely, guilt and defeat. Maybe your broken window is dirty laundry, a sink full of dishes, clutter on your counter. Whatever it is, it undermines your goals because it gives you a sense of chaos. The act of fixing broken windows, however, is liberating. The task takes on symbolic weight. It doesn’t just feel like you’re sorting the mail you’ve been meaning to sort—it feels like you’re taking the first step toward doing everything you’ve been meaning to. 

Taking the first step. Moving toward everything you’ve been meaning to do. Moving toward usefulness and having anticipatory pleasure because the leaves will be raked and you’ll burn some calories in the process. The mail will be sorted and you’ll unexpectedly find a rebate check. You’ll connect with an old friend and make his day—maybe even bring some peace into his life and yours.

The happiness scale can certainly change from day to day. But like Dr. Lickerman does, it’s a great idea to schedule something that gives your joy, something to anticipate and help you through other parts of your life. If you have a happiness theory, please share. And again I will quote a wise woman: “Feeling sad today? Then go out and help someone else.”

To take a test to see how happy you really are go here. 

Thanks to Google Images

Where Are You on the Happiness Scale?


The Grandmother Hypothesis and the Importance of Grandparenting

The Grandmother Hypothesis and the Importance of Grandparenting

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

The Grandmother Hypothesis and the Importance of Grandparenting

Thanks to Google Images


Memories, Mother-worry, Results–Diagnosis: MMR


Memories, Mother-worry, Results--Diagnosis: MMR

Memory: I lay in my bed with a fever, restless, taking sips of water that my mother delivered, she a constant at my bedside. This delirium lasted for 18 hours or more until the fever broke. I recovered. Diagnosis: measles. Memory: the salivary glands on both sides of my face swelled making talking and eating painful and difficult. I had a fever and of course was confined to my room. So were my two brothers. Diagnosis; mumps. Memory: another rash and a fever which kept me home from school for a week. But though I wasn’t very sick, my mother said I had to stay home, relating the story of a child I knew. She was completely deaf, the first hearing-imparied person I ever met. And she was deaf because her mother had the same rash and fever when she was pregnant. Diagnosis: rubella.

I also have very vivid memories of chicken pox. For me, this was probably the worst as I had more than my share of the classic rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that finally scab over. And they weren’t just on arms and legs. These blisters can appear inside the mouth, eyelids or genital area.

These four illnesses, combined with fears of polio that often occurred in the early fifties, were part of raising a child. Mothers and fathers expected these diseases to infect their children–and they did. We missed weeks of school and upset households. When I was ill with chicken pox, my younger brother succumbed a few days later. My mother, who worked at home, could do nothing else but care for us.

So you know where I’m going with this–make sure your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are vaccinated. Children need to get an MMR. Read more about the MMR here. And everyone needs to help provide herd Immunity.  Read more about the concept here.

Definition: Herd immunity is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. It arises when a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, making it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few susceptible people left to infect. This can effectively stop the spread of disease in the community. It is particularly crucial for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated. These include children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems, and those who are too ill to receive vaccines (such as some cancer patients). 

  • So when you vaccinate your children and grandchildren you are also protecting vulnerable members of your community by reducing the spread of disease.
  • When you get a flu shot you are protecting the elderly and immunocompromised from dying of the flu–and some do every year.
  • “When the number of people vaccinated drops below 95 percent, a community loses herd immunity to highly contagious germs…”

Looking at the History: the 1950s

In a recent article in TIME Jeffrey Kluger provides great information: in 1952 there were 57,879 cases of paralytic polio in the United States. By 1961, six years after the Salk vaccine was introduced, that number fell to 1,312, a 98% reduction. Today the figure is zero. Measles?? In the 1950s, 3-5 million of us contracted the disease EACH YEAR! 48,000 of those cases were hospitalized. In 2012 there were only 55 cases. BUT WE DON’T WANT TO GO BACK.

Some states have excellent rates of coverage: Louisiana 96.6% rate for the MMR and 98.3% for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis Tdap. Mississippi boasts a near perfect 99.9% but California, with its contributing figures from Orange County where mothers often listen to a certain pediatrician who tells them not to vaccinate if they don’t want to, has only 92.7% for the MMR and 92.5% for Tdap. This is serious. Populations cannot afford the numbers to drop below 95%. It puts many people at risk. It puts immunocompromised people, infants and cancer patients at risk.

Fighting Back

Kluger reports that some medical professionals are able to convince parents to vaccinate by using these measures:

1. Relating the consequences of getting the disease:

mumps: deafness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), inflammation of testes which can cause a drop in the sperm count and inflammation of the ovaries though fertility is not affected;

measles: ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis; and in a pregnancy miscarriage or premature birth; death, as one or two out of 1,000 die;

German measles, rubella: poses a grave danger to a pregnant woman’s fetus and can cause miscarriage or birth defects like deafness, intellectual disability, heart defects; 85 out of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first 3 months of her pregnancy will have a birth defect.

2. MOBI – maximizing office-based immunizations–in other words, taking the opportunity to offer vaccines to children whenever they appear in the medical office. “We think people listen to their providers, Says Mary DiOrio, the state of Ohio’s epidemiologist.

3. Laws. 49 of the 50 states have laws that require kids to be vaccinated before attending public schools and daycare centers. Ohio does not extend the law to daycare centers. PROBLEM: parents can utilize an opt-out form for religious reasons–but this is being exploited.

4. Schools are now permitted to require unvaccinated children to stay home during outbreaks and to bar them from school activities. Says superintendent of schools in Delaware County, Ohio: “We say unvaccinated kids can’t come to school dances or play on sports teams because of the risk. That gets it on the child’s radar screen.” And thus the parents’.

The Autism Component 

The initial fears that the MMR contributed to the rise of autism are still circulating, though the research has been found to be totally inaccurate. As Kluger writes: “The vaccine opponents are not going away anytime soon, though encouragingly, some are going dark.” He states that Jenny McCarthy speaks little of the matter anymore. And in some communities parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are being outwardly criticized by vaccination proponents. This just might bring those parents around.

With the scare of Ebola now coming to our shores, once again it is important to educate ourselves. We need to understand how the virus is passed and what controls or measures to take to protect ourselves. Panic blinds us. Education helps people make sensible decisions. To read about Ebola go here.

My husband and I were able to vaccinate our two daughters with the MMR and DPT and thus their childhoods were free of these pernicious illnesses. They did have to deal with the chicken pox as the vaccine was not available then. My son, born in 1989, was able to get the chicken pox vaccine. To create good memories, avoid mother-worries and raise children with healthy results–vaccinate. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider or pediatrician. And thanks for reading

More info on vaccination:

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Bliss Graywolf

Who’s Afraid of a LIttle Vaccine? by Jeffrey Kluger

Memories, Mother-worry, Results--Diagnosis: MMR


Why Jenny McCarthy Is Selfish

This is how herd immunity works.

Thanks to Google Images

Autumn: A Time of Atonement and Bounty

Autumn: A Time of Atonement and Bounty

Autumn is finally here. In some parts of the country and the world summer’s end was wet, with incessant rains that felled leaves early, smashing grass and crops with a blanket of soggy vegetation and shorn tree limbs. Such weather patterns contrasted with the drought and dryness other parts of America and the world continue to experience. What does nature know that we do not about the length of our days? Why do some regions have bounty and others experience loss? Is there something we need to atone for?

Probably. But though in my town we yearn for rains, I’m still determined to enjoy autumn once again. I have pots of yellow and burnt ocher mums nestling by pumpkins on my front porch. My autumn welcome sign is hung and a wreath of yellow leaves blazes on my front door. This is my time. For me autumn is always a beginning.

A Clearer Picture

When things fall back toward the earth, the outlines of garden and lawn, of walkway and road become more apparent. This precise definition creates a sense of order and organization. In fall there are memories of wild vines and riotous summer flower color. But now it’s best to be more satisfied with quieter denser things like clipped boxwood and evergreens, like bare tree trunks of grey and soft brown. The air is cool. The skies seem swept up too, presenting swathes of crystal color. Cold air outlines things so definitely, you can almost see each leaf and branch.

Order Brings Time for Contemplation

Definition and order soothes the soul. I lean toward putting things away in their proper place. I lean toward knowing that everything sleeps quietly waiting for a reawakening. This is a time to store energy, to store knowledge. It can be a time to read and contemplate and make decisions.

If you seek solace and quiet, this is your time too. For as we move inside to do our living, placing things we love like a bright pumpkin or a sheaf of leaves on table surfaces, or brightening a room with a flowered pillow or candlelight, it can also become a time to move inward in our thinking–to meditate and determine more and more exactly who we are.

Autumn decorations can remind us of endings, yet good endings that are resolute and leave us feeling blessed, not sorrowful. Autumn is the time of atonement for the Jewish people and how appropriate to tidy up one’s soul as the earth is preparing for sleep and hibernation, as winter winds are soon to come and humans are stocking up on food energy and light energy and the ability to survive.


But no matter what the season, we should atone for the hurts we have caused; we should try to mediate our expressions of anger. And certainly if we have hurt someone we need to ask for forgiveness; and if someone has hurt us, we should try to find a way to forgive that person, to lighten the loads we often carry. And we must forgive ourselves.

Settling In

It’s a little early, but there will come a time as the days get shorter that we will want to settle back into our brains and examine who we are, where we are going, and how we might improve. Life cannot be lived like the riot of spring where nature blows her wad and lets everything grow and rush about. We enjoyed that fertility. But now it’s time to be more judicious in our use of harvest fruits; we need to carefully use and share our bounty.

Certainly in the spring, when life comes back, we have no fears of the future. But in the autumn, we need to count the jars in the cellar, the apples in the basket, the sins on the soul. We need to tidy our lives and draw within to discover how we will survive, how we will make it through the dark times of our life. And how we can help others through their darker, harder times.

Final Thought

In each of us is a light deep within. Sharing that light draws bounty, brings good things to us whether the world is hard-packed snow or dry desert. Autumn can provide a time for atonement. Winter and beyond can be full of the light of love as the grace of forgiving someone brings the warmth of reclaiming love. If you are feeling like all the days of your life are hard, cold winter, then it’s time to open up to those around you, to share the light within you. IT WILL BRING YOU HAPPINESS. As a wise woman once said to me: “Feeling sad today? Then go out and help someone else.” She was so right.

Autumn: A Time of Atonement and Bounty

Thanks to John Havey and Google Images

Know Your History, Know Yourself

Looking back is looking inside yourself; knowing your history helps you to know yourself.

I like looking back. I have photos placed throughout my home that help me travel to the past. And recently, after a major downsizing and move to a smaller home footprint, I created nostalgia shelves that hold photos of my mother and father, my husband and I as newlyweds, my children and grandchildren and tokens from my children’s childhood. And of course, they make me nostalgic.

Know Your History, Know Yourself

That’s a concept! —someone might say—a concept you have to be prepared for. Because nostalgia is both pleasure and sadness—feelings that come simultaneously as the past rises in memory and tugs us back to experiences we often wish we could have again. Like today. A close friend’s daughter gave birth to her first child, and being “modern and up-to-date,” her labor was reported to us in a series of text messages. I thought of her off and on all day, but I also remembered my own labors.

There were no cell phones then and we truly surprised everyone when my husband finally sprinted from the delivery room to call and announce the birth of our daughter, her weight and length, hair and eye color. It would be weeks before there were photos for far away friends and relatives. To see her you had to stop over and visit!

(Obviously, for others of us, nostalgia sometimes brings pain. The plethora of memoirs is a testament to that. But sometimes going back is necessary for healing. We pull from the past those things that helped us get to where we are now and we honor that.)

But though we have the amazing ability to garner information from the internet (which I have done for this post) and to live other people’s lives through platforms like Facebook–truly living, plunging into, experiencing and finally understanding our own lives is what we’re here for. So let’s make that happen.

How do we do that? Some answers would include meditation or prayer. My husband would advocate giving of ourselves to others.  

1. So let’s talk to each other. It’s a common complaint among my generation that people are focusing two much on their “little machines” and not looking across the table into the eyes of those they care about. I could fill this post with photos of moms walking babies and talking on their phones. The ultimate would be the wedding ceremony where the bride and groom are on their phones—only looking up now and again to exchange their vows. What happened to falling into each others’ eyes?

2. And let’s make more of an effort to engage on a bigger level. I so admire families that are separated by distance, but who make the point of weekly phone calls (with or without a “face-time” component), and who share both their joys and their sorrows with family members. That’s the glue that holds us together. Sharing the negatives. Internet platforms often bend to the positive side of things. Ain’t my life grand? Look at me–look at what I’m doing. But when they walk away from the “picture” of that life, what is it really? Because we want each person’s life to have a solid base, one that can bear you up when you encounter illness, divorce, money problems, death. True relationships save lives.

3. And for the purpose of this post, knowing your history and thus knowing what positive experiences helped “build” you into the person you are should be shared within your family. If my older brother went back, he would find books and music. Bookshelves in his room held volumes that I borrowed and read and he haunted a local store that sold records. There he listened to classical music and over the years became a lover and purchaser of thousands of recordings. His life work: professor of English literature. My younger brother would find baseball, hockey and other sports–and music. He has worked in the music business since graduating from college and of course still loves and participates in sports.

I would find books, books and more books. My history is welded to reading, writing and teaching. My mother shared her love of books with me and I shared them with my children. Nostalgia, nostalgia. Here are some examples of the very early reading that helped “build” my life. I am forever grateful to my mother. She knew what she was doing.

The Maida Books. This was a series that my mother owned. Written by Inez Haynes Gillmore Irwin, they first appeared in 1910 with Maida’s Little Shop. I still remember being comfy on the living room sofa reading this book and often telling my mother how much I loved it. The Maida books reflected Irwin’s belief in feminism and social change. Maida’s wealthy father provides Maida and her friends with a series of alternative environments for living and learning. My older daughter read those in the series that my mother owned, the covers fragile and old. Today she proudly cares for them.

Anne of Green Gables. This series is the favorite of my other daughter who owns all the books and fulfilled a lifetime dream last summer when she and her family visited Prince Edward Island. Written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the first title appeared in 1908. It is the story of Anne Shirley, age 11, a young orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who have a farm on PEI and who had intended to adopt a boy to help them. The novel recounts how Anne steals the hearts of the Cuthberts and everyone else in the small town. An August article in the New York Times by Ann Mah recounts the emotional experience of loving the books and visiting PEI.

Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys. Louisa May Alcott wasn’t sure she wanted to write a book for young girls, but utilizing shared experiences with her real life sisters, she created four of the most endearing characters ever created—Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. This novel was published in 1868 and follows the lives of the four sisters as they navigated growing up during the American Civil War. Alcott went on to write Little Men and Jo’s Boys after the success of the first book. My mother loved the books and named me after the Beth character.

The Boxcar Children Series. Written by Gertrude Chandler Warren, the books are about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, four orphaned brothers and sisters who mysteriously appear in a small town on a warm summer night. No one knows who they are or where they came from. Frightened to live with a grandfather they have never met, the children make a home for themselves in an old abandoned red boxcar they discover in the woods. From there readers discover the strength and creativity of these children to live on their own in their forest home. One critic wrote: All elementary school children will love this book series. Every child dreams of running away and living in the woods at some time, and these kids have done it. Fantasy fulfilled through a book!

Thanks for reading and looking back with me. Knowing where we have been is the best way to help us decide where we want to go and how we want to get there. If you have a book that helped pave your life journey, please share. Below is a cartoon from the New Yorker that I am thrilled I found. I remember coming across it and saying YES THAT’S HOW IT WAS. Of course the child is reading Little Women.

Know Your History, Know Yourself

Thanks to Perry Barlow for his nostalgic cartoon.

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Absolutely. First, think back. No matter what your financial picture is now, can you remember overhearing or maybe even having a discussion with your parents about money? Answers would be diverse and numerous; they might look like this:

1. I realized we didn’t have any money when my mother cried about my ripping a jacket;

2. At night I often heard my parents arguing about money;

3. When my father died, my mother had to work two jobs–to support us and pay off debts;

4. If my mother uttered the word debt or money, my father would shush her and take us all for ice cream.

5. From early on, my father focussed on my need to get a job to help the family.

Others reading this might have been fortunate enough to live in a household where money wasn’t a problem or an issue. But with the downturn in the economy and subsequent loss of jobs for great numbers of people, money concerns are now part of many households.  What parents or grandparents say about money and debt can negatively or positively affect how children feel and eventually handle their own money.

True wealth isn’t defined by how much money you have, but by how you use it.

Shannon Ryan grew up with this maxim. Her blog, THE HEAVY PURSE, reflects the lessons that her father began to teach her at the age of 13. He discussed the importance of spending money wisely thus giving a person the ability to purchase what matters most. He taught that financial freedom is definitely related to understanding one’s emotional relationship to money, which could be fear, anger, frustration, even boredom. Fear of money or anger that we don’t have enough can lead to profligate and unwise spending. The result? Emotional spending hinders the realization of goals and disallows living the life we want and deserve.

If you have decided to stop reading because none of this applies to you in your boomer years, please don’t. Do you read money gurus like Jean Chatzky and Suze Orman? Ryan is applying great principles about money to help prepare our children and grandchildren for a future where having enough money might be even more tenuous than it was for us.

1. Consider the emotional aspect of money: if money sometimes meant struggle for you, then consider teaching your progeny that it is a gift, one that can bring good things into life if used properly. Attaching too much emotion to money can make it a burden for the wealthy or something to covet for the non-wealthy—neither is positive or helpful.

2. Give money a purpose: discuss the importance of not spending mindlessly. Ryan advocates family meetings where money is discussed and goals (like a vacation) are set. Though her daughters are young, she and her husband are teaching money’s connection to goal setting. They might ask: which should the family save for this year—a vacation to visit a relative or a backyard climbing gym? They then plan and save for the decided upon goal. Her daughters have input and learn that this household does not spend mindlessly.

3. Set spending examples: Ryan’s children save the money they receive as gifts and from doing chores. A shopping expedition is a test to see if the “flashy new item” is really worth the funds they have saved. Ryan is proud to say the girls often decline spending their money and have learned not to beg Mom to buy the item for them.

4. Share money decisions: Ryan’s openness is healthy. I remember worrying about money as a child; I knew we didn’t have much of it. Once in a great while my mother could not help reminding us that we had to watch our spending carefully. But she also allowed us in on discussions about spending and decision making. We learned to pride ourselves on the money we made through summer jobs and the scholarships we earned to put us through college.

5. At the very least, talk about MONEY: Final thoughts. As parents and grandparents we teach our children so much, wanting them to grow up and succeed in life, become happy, well-grounded, successful adults. We give them the tools they need to reach certain goals: how to practice good hygiene, how to read, learn math facts, talk to adults, meet and become friendly with other children. But Ryan points out that rarely do we talk to our progeny about how to make smart money decisions. Ryan states: “If we really want our kids to succeed, money conversations need to become a priority and not an afterthought. Make the commitment to talk to your kids about money and if you don’t know how, then make the commitment to learn.”

Some money conversations can be difficult, but if debt is a problem and money is tight, Ryan has some great suggestions for budgeting and discussing budgeting within the family.

Money should not be a dirty word in anyone’s household. Honest discussions about a family’s economic situation works toward proper decision-making when it comes to spending. Including growing children and teens in the purpose of spending and the reasons for saving can help them build positive and emotion-free attitudes toward money as they build their own successful lives and careers.

Thanks to Shannon Ryan for her exceedingly helpful blog that can not only make money a positive word in our progeny’s vocabulary, but can also provide us with doable ideas about budgeting. Got a teen who wants to build up credit card debt? Arguments against. Check it out here. Our use and explanation of words like money and debt definitely affect our children’s economic future.

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Thanks to Google Images

We Dream, We Plan, We Live

We Dream, We Plan, We Live

Magic Lake
Photo by Elena Shumilova

I wonder if some of the generations below us have decided that we are too old to dream. Because it is not so. There must be something in the DNA of humans, something lying fallow in our makeup that periodically blooms, grows, takes us over. We dream, we plan, we live. We go on living. Sometimes it’s hard to work toward those dreams. Sometimes the very act of dreaming provides us with solace. At our core we all have some vision that we aspire to, that we lean toward, that we encourage in ourselves and in our children and families. This blog features a woman, a mother who used her camera to bring the sense of dreaming into focus, and writers whose words build on dreaming, visions and a sharp understanding of life.

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking, on understanding death. “I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death. What ended was the possibility of response.”

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, thoughts on laughter. “It is an amazing thing to watch people laugh, the way it sort of takes them over. Sometimes they really do struggle with it . . . so I wonder what it is and where it comes from, and I wonder what it expends out of your system, so that you have to do it till you’re done, like crying in a way, I suppose, except that laughter is much more easily spent.”

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, on yearning for the spiritual. “What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn’t us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are not they both saying: Hello? We spy on whales and on interstellar radio objects; we starve ourselves and pray till we’re blue.”

Dr. Seuss on dreams. “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

Vincent van Gogh on dreaming. “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

___C.S. Lewis on dreaming. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

___Lewis B. Smedes on forgiving, which helps dreams come to life. “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, thoughts on writing. “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” And his famous last line from The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Because we do beat on, we do dream on, we do keep going. A person very dear to me wrote me this in the flap of a favorite book: Your creativity is boundless, and now I have the chance to make sure you truly believe this about yourself. My creativity, if it is anything at all, is your gift to me, and I’ll spend my life trying to give it back to you. 

Those words truly are the stuff of dreams. But so is the Valentine from the person we didn’t expect to hear from or the endorsement on Linked In, the recommendation freely offered for whatever goal, job, dream we are seeking. We all need to hold each other up, to be a brick in the wall of the dream of the persons we care about. It’s just so true, We are all in this together. 

So I thank my brother-in-law George for sharing Elena’s photos today. Because they sparked the seed for this blog post and they are truly the stuff of her dreams. Now what is the stuff of your dreams? And how are you going to work toward those dreams? And who will help you, who will offer to place a brick in the wall of your dream so that it is strong and purposeful? Please share your dreams.

We Dream, We Plan, We Live

The Bunny photo by Elena Shumilova

See more of Elena’s photos hereAnd here.

We Dream, We Plan, We Live

The Sun

The Spirit of the Tree

The Spirit of the Tree

We came upon this lovely creature holding firm to the earth.














Today we went for a hike. It’s hot and bright in Southern California, and we have not had rain since the 4th of March. But the trees in the Thousand Oaks Arboretum are alive and green and providing lots of shade. When we came upon this one in the hush of soft breezes and the occasional bird call, the spirit of the majestic oak filled the place. Nature is calming and I wondered if across our planet we could all find some peace if we focussed more on such gifts.

We met another wanderer on the trail, and he pointed us in the direction of a narrow path that took us down by a stream. Yes, there was water tricking despite the drought and birds enjoying the quiet and profound calm of the place

The Spirit of the Tree

Water, creatures and trees bending over–such a lovely gesture.













As we walked on, the trees opened to a vista of sky, this one making us wonder if the spirits were playing with water colors, spilling some white paint into the blue, streaking it lightly.

The Spirit of the Tree

…streaking it lightly with white paint.










If you have had times when life was a struggle, that’s certainly true for nature. She is as tenacious as we are, her children lifting limbs with leaves, stems with flowers to the sun, working through the process of photosynthesis despite the lack of moisture. The plants in the photo below are thriving having decided that they can live without much water, if any.

The Spirit of the Tree

Hail to these survivors.










We were hot but exhilarated when we finished our two mile hike. We were grateful for a drink of water, yet more grateful to nature for the gift of amazing lavender and rosemary scents, buzzing insects, musical stream water and the ever attentive breeze. It’s a great stress reducer; it’s church–in the blowing grass, the waving branches.

For the spirit of creation is truly all around us. When we can, it is good to focus on it, soak it in. Even if your walk is punctuated with car horns and other traffic sounds–there should be one plant, one bright flower or bush shining somewhere, one tree for you to smile upon. The spirit of the tree–there to remind all of us to lift ourselves up–and hopefully to give back to others–like the tree continually does, shading us and sharing its constant strength.

Thanks to John Havey for the wonderful photos and the walk.

The Spirit of the Tree

Thanks for stopping by.














Boomer Highway’s Health Headlines: News You Can Use


Boomer Highway's Health Headlines: News You Can UseBoomer Highway's Health Headlines: News You Can Use

Not to worry if you’re busy checking current aspects of the economy, trying to find a decent airfare to visit your grandchildren, or just too busy to read current health stuff. I’ve got your back. I’m drawn to all aspects of current health research and information, so here are some new health facts you should know.

It’s the Sugar, Baby! Not the Fats.

In the 80’s it was all about avoiding cholesterol and fats. Remember SnackWell’s? They’re still around in their very healthy green boxBut even though they promised limited fats, they upped the sugar so things would taste good—symbolic for that movement in the food industry. Fats were demonized, even though some cholesterol is good for us. In 1992 the Food Guide Pyramid made grains and bread the foundation of the U.S. diet. The idea was to cut calories, but research shows Americans began upping their calories and obesity and Type 2 diabetes skyrocketed. The problem: simple carbs like bread and corn quickly convert to sugar in your body. The sugar stimulates the production of insulin and then the fat cells in your body go into storage overdrive leading to weight gain. There will always be ongoing studies, but to keep weight in control, eating REAL FOOD, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains is the way to go. Forget the SnackWell’s. Read more in Time.

What’s Your Type 2 IQ?

If you’re all good about your weight and you eat a healthy diet, you might want to skip this, but if you have questions about diabetes or a family history–take the quiz. Because diabetes is a complex disease, and myths about it are very common. How much do YOU know about what cases it and how to treat it?

1. Eating lots of sugar (candy, cake) causes Type 2 diabetes. T  F

2. Type 2 diabetes happens only to overweight people. T  F

3. Type 2 diabetes occurs only in adulthood.  T  F

4. People with Type 2 diabetes must go on a special diet. T  F

5. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you must inject insulin. T  F

1. False. With Type 2 diabetes, your body can’t use insulin properly. Either the cells in your body are no longer able to accept the insulin or you have too many cells (because of being overweight) and not enough insulin. However, there is a connection between a poor diet that is high in carbs leading to the chance of getting Type 2 diabetes. (see the info in question #2)

2. False. People who are overweight have a greater risk of Type 2, but even normal-weight and under-weight people can get Type 2 because it can run in families.

3. False Type 2 diabetes used to affect mainly overweight adults over age 40. Now rates are increasing among children and teens, many of whom are obese and inactive.

4. False There’s no such thing as a diabetes diet, but if you have Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to eat healthy food in consistent amounts, as well as to avoid too many carbohydrates, so as to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

5. False. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can be treated with medications in pill form. Still others can avoid all drugs by maintaining a healthy weight and diet.

Don’t Slow Down. Fast walking is the thing! 

My mother was a fast walker. Even in her 80s she walked to the train, then once downtown she walked quickly to her job. Mom lived into her late 90s and it was only when she was 94 that one could see dementia beginning. New research done by Dr. Arthur F. Kramer supports the theory that walking a few miles per week can hold off the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. The study states:”people who walk at least 5 miles a week have bigger brains, better memories and improved mental ability compared to those who are more sedentary.” Because aging causes the brain circuits to become less connected, researchers wanted to see if brisk walking, as a form of aerobic exercise, would change that. The results: Those who walked briskly reaped the biggest benefits – older people in the study became more fit and simultaneously their aerobic exercise improved memory, attention and other cognitive processes. Their circuit connectivity increased so much, it mimicked that of the 20-somethings. To learn more about the study, read here and here  Note that many kinds of exercise can help protect brain health. Aim for 150 minutes of activity a week.

Here are some examples:

Biking or running: 30-40 minutes, six times a week

Racquetball: 90 minutes twice a week

Walking: 45 minutes daily.

Sleep-Time Tips

1. A sleep schedule is a great way to get a good night’s rest. Try to go to bed and arise at the same time every day. You can set your “alarm” for both.

2. Exercise should occur at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime. Exercise is stimulating and can keep you awake.

3. No stimulants. Nicotine and caffeine can take up to 8 hours to wear off. It’s best to avoid foods and drinks with caffeine late in the day and avoid smoking altogether.

4. No nightcap. Alcohol makes you feel sleepy and relaxed, but it can disrupt your sleep cycles. Such sleep is less restful and can make you wake up in the middle of the night.

5. Make it dark. Eliminate light sources in your bedroom, as people sleep better in the dark when the light won’t interfere with your circadian rhythms.

6. Set the mood. Avoid jumping from activity to bed. Increase the time for getting ready by relaxing, maybe with a warm bath, good book or soft music. It helps your body settle in for sleep.

7. Don’t worry. If after 20 minutes you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing, like reading. The more you stress about not sleeping the longer you will stay awake.

8. Go Before You Go to Bed. Limit your fluid intake a few hours before sleeping, and try to do a double void–urinate once before your bedtime routine and then again right before you climb into bed.

So if you’ve got a program that is keeping you fit and you remember where your glasses or car keys are at all times–share your health headline. It’s news we all can use!

Thanks to Google Images

Boomer Highway's Health Headlines: News You Can Use