What American Kids Need: Love, Education and Public Schools

What American Kids Need: Love, Education and Public Schools

We all know what education is and we know its purpose. I would not be writing this piece if I had not had some form of education. But I also feel compelled to support with great emotion–public education.

MY PERSONAL INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC EDUCATION 

I minored in education in college and spent five years teaching at the secondary level in a public high school. This school in the far Chicago suburbs pulled together a very diverse group of students, but wow, it was amazing. I loved teaching. It was hard work. I not only had to be facile with my subject matter, but also be able to help students work through physical, social and demographic challenges. They often struggled and so did I. After all, I was so young! Right out of college. But by the time I left teaching, my reputation was a good one and I had some serious “how to deal with unrest and problems” chops. I gave everything I could to those young people.

PLEASE TOLERATE A FEW DEFINITIONS 

But for this subsequent discussion, a definition. These are taken from the website: Center for Public Education:

  • Public education means a tuition-free, publicly funded system that must provide an education to each child in a neighborhood school within a publicly governed school system. The academic standards, the teachers and administrators, the values and methods of operation employed in these schools are all subject to oversight and direction by public policy-making bodies. The rights of students and parents are legally defined and are enforceable by the courts. 
  • Public education means that a wide range of decision making resides at the community level through the operation of locally elected school boards and through other avenues of direct citizen participation in the schools.
  • Public education also means a system in which parents and the general public can obtain detailed information about their schools and be involved in school activities.

The website then goes on to ask a few very important questions.

  • What would education and society in America be like if these principles weren’t at the core of what is meant by public education?
  • What if education were turned over to publicly funded schools that did not have to adhere to these principles?
  • Which of these principles would be eliminated ?
  • Which children would be left behind?

It is so wrong and totally unfortunate when the needs of children are abandoned because of an ideologue’s vision of the future that does not encompass what is good for EVERY child.

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT RELIGION  

Would you believe that I attended private schools (Catholic) from grade school through college, but will always advocate for public education? Why? Many reasons. First because private education should be a personal choice–a family willing to PAY FOR the opportunity to send their child to a religious-based school. Or to get a scholarship to a private school that specializes in some facet of education. PRIVATE schools should not be given funds that are to be appropriated through our tax base to public schools.

Our country was founded on a basis that does not honor one religion over another. There have been times in our history when that principle was seriously challenged–and still is. But when we come together with a variety of beliefs into the PUBLIC FORUM, we should agree to educate American children and not skew educational content to one religion or another. (Note: my grandchildren attend a public school in California. If their parents wish them to participate in any kind of religious education–then they attend AFTER school hours.)

THE CHARTER SCHOOL PROBLEM

The fact that in our history individual citizens have tried to keep their children from attending integrated schools, schools in certain neighborhoods, schools that are housed in older facilities–have contributed to what we are experiencing now: the charter school.

Here is a clear explanation of why charter schools have twisted the law to allow them to utilize public funds. It was written by Barbara Miner a reporter who lives in Milwaukee. She writes: For more than a quarter-century, I have reported on the voucher program in Milwaukee: the country’s first contemporary voucher initiative and a model for other cities and state programs, from Cleveland to New Orleans, Florida to Indiana.

Milwaukee’s program began in 1990, when the state Legislature passed a bill allowing 300 students in seven nonsectarian private schools to receive taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. It was billed as a small, low-cost experiment to help poor black children, and had a five-year sunset clause.

That was the bait. The first “switch” came a few weeks later, when the Republican governor eliminated the sunset clause. Ever since, vouchers have been a divisive yet permanent fixture in Wisconsin.

So by eliminating the sunset clause of five years, the program continued and expanded. The program WAS NEVER put to a public vote in the state of Wisconsin.

HERE ARE THE RESULTS: Today, some 33,000 students in 212 schools receive publicly funded vouchers, not just in Milwaukee but throughout Wisconsin. If it were its own school district, the voucher program would be the state’s second largest. The overwhelming majority of the schools are religious.

Miner goes on to explain just what that means: Even if every single student at a school receives a publicly funded voucher, as is the case in 22 of Milwaukee’s schools, that school is still defined as private. Because they are defined as “private,” voucher schools operate by separate rules, with minimal public oversight or transparency.

Miner lists some of the ways these schools can get around laws that normally govern publicly funded schools.

  1. They can sidestep basic constitutional protections such as freedom of speech.
  2. They do not have to provide the same level of second-language or special-education services.
  3. They can suspend or expel students without legal due process.
  4. They can ignore the state’s requirements for open meetings and records.
  5. They can disregard state law prohibiting discrimination against students on grounds of sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital or parental status.

You pay taxes for the public schools in the area where you live. If you are good to go with the above–fine. I AM NOT! Violating the above principles that are so deeply a part of public education is not giving children LOVE and SUPPORT. Milner’s article attracted my attention, BECAUSE LIKE ME, she attended Catholic schools. But she writes: I believe that this country’s long-standing defense of religious liberty is a hallmark of our democracy. But the voucher program has distorted this all-important concept of religious freedom. 

The voucher program allows private schools to use PUBLIC DOLLARS to:  proselytize and teach church doctrine that is at odds with public policy;

  1. that women must be submissive to men
  2. that homosexuality is evil
  3. that birth control is a sin
  4. that creationism is scientifically sound.

Privatizing our public schools while forcing taxpayers to pay and not giving then A VOICE, WEAKENS OUR DEMOCRACY. And this is not a small amount of public money that is being funneled into these charter schools. Miner states that this year alone, the tab for the private and religious schools in Wisconsin is 248 million. That’s a chunk of change being taken from the public school system and weakening the education given to many children in that state.

I know you have your own opinions on this topic. But please consider: though it has had deep-seated problems PUBLIC EDUCATION PROVIDES THE BEDROCK FOR PROGRESS IN OUR COUNTRY and is needed to EDUCATE GOOD CITIZENS.

The solution is to fix our public schools–not abandon them. Our public schools are the only institutions with the commitment, the capacity, and the legal obligation to teach all children. With Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, the entire country now must answer this question: If public education is an essential bedrock of our democracy, why are we  undermining it? Why are we thinking of abandoning it?

Want to fight back–attend the school board meetings at your local high school. Get involved. After all, WE THE PEOPLE still have a say.

Photo Credit: onelineathens.com  

Hey Government, Behind Your Decisions Are REAL PEOPLE

Hey Government, Behind Your Decisions Are REAL PEOPLE

Sometimes we are so involved in the argument that we don’t realize that the argument involves REAL PEOPLE. It’s one thing to sit around with a glass of wine or a shot of something stronger and argue about The Affordable Care Act, immunizations, the cost of various medications, or getting rid of various government departments because there is too much government. But remember, behind many of these arguments to eliminate stuff are PEOPLE–people’s lives, their health, education and general welfare!

YOU AND YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH 

Take a situation that occurred recently at an elementary school in California. A teacher there died of bacterial meningitis. What do you know about meningitis. Here are the symptoms in people older than the age of 2: Sudden high fever. Stiff neck. Severe headache that seems different than normal. Headache with nausea or vomiting. Confusion or difficulty concentrating. Sleepiness and light sensitivity. When the disease is full blown: seizures.

Is it contagious? Yes, very. It can spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as food sharing. The treatment, if disease is acute, intravenous antibiotics and, more recently, corticosteroids. This helps to ensure recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures. The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection, so a broad-spectrum antibiotic is ordered until the doctor determines the exact cause of the meningitis. (there is also a viral meningitis which is treated with bed rest, fluids and and fever reducers.)

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department sent out representatives to discover who had come in contact with the teacher. They then provided preventative antibiotics and information about the disease to calm parents’ fears. THIS IS WHAT GOVERNMENT CAN DO ON THE PLUS SIDE.

Why do we have health departments in our towns and cities? Just for this reason. Any epidemic or health scare that arises is immediately dealt with because of in-place protocols used by your local health department. Knowledgable people jump in and help. Because let’s be frank, even with the internet, we don’t have all the answers and panic blocks clear thinking. But also consider this: you have some symptom and you go to the health department and discover you need surgery. Congress has eliminated the ACA. You don’t have health insurance through your job. You are in trouble.

YOU AND YOUR FAMILY’S ENVIRONMENT  

Another argument that truly makes me crazy is that global warming or climate change is a myth. Really? And to prove that our senate appointed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head who doesn’t believe in the EPA and would like to dismantle it. He would probably use the line, “I’m not a scientist.” But let’s complete that: “I’m not a scientist, but I really hate science because it interferes with me and my buddies making lots of money. And after all, I owe them.” No, you owe the American people who voted for you.

The truth hurts. (And by the way, I’ll wager my six-year-old grandson knows more about science than any current member of the senate who is voting against climate change.)

But I would like to ask one of these guys in Congress and the EPA head: “Have you ever looked out your car window at folks walking the streets and wondered about their lives?” Because my God, don’t you climate deniers have parents, grandchildren, some sort of family. And why do I ask??

Because new research reveals that exposure to high levels of fine air pollutants increases dementia and its classic behavioral signs: disorientation and memory loss. (Gee, Mr. Senator, you might have to hire a full-time health worker to take care of your parent with dementia. But hey, keep that person signed on because you might need her to take care of you. Maybe you need her right now!)

Scientists have found that exposure to air pollution creates amyloid beta protein clumps in the brain and the die-off of cells in the brain’s hippocampus–a key center for memory function. But Mr. Senator or Mr. EPA Head, you might not give a care–you know, scientists can use some confusing language. Unfamiliar words. They make you WORK a bit.

But you will give a care if it hits you where it hurts, YOUR PEOPLE. I mean your decisions aren’t just a piece of paper–they follow a chain of command that hurts US citizens, THE REAL PEOPLE. The ones that voted for you.

So excuse me a moment, but I’m going to look at the SCIENCE.

“The US EPA found significant differences when looking at people who breathed clean air and those exposed to unsafe pollution levels.” OF COURSE. A study found that before the EPA set new air pollution standards in 2012, some 21% of new cases of dementia and of accelerated cognitive decline could have been attributed to air pollution. So thanks, EPA, for caring about people. Someone has to. But wait. Isn’t government decision-making often based on MONEY???

Let’s ask Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen, an environmental health specialist. “If people in the current administration are trying to reduce the cost of treating diseases, including dementia, then they should know that relaxing Clean Air Act regulations will do the opposite.”

Oh and by the way, many women carry a gene that gives them a predispostion to developing Alzheimer’s disease, because this gene makes them more sensitive to air pollutions’ effects. But these older guys in the senate don’t have time to read this information. They aren’t scientists, after all.

Every person in power could become educated about these matters if they cared to. They could contact the EPA, ask to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone who could give them facts and stats about the condition of our air and why clean air laws are truly necessary. Think of all the people they would help.

When we first moved to California, we were looking for a house in Pasadena. Many people know that place because of the Beach Boys song, The Little Old Lady from Pasadena. One of my cousins who had lived in the LA area was shocked. “You don’t want to live there. Too much smog.” Well, he was right, there had been lots of smog in Pasadena, but with new laws that made it imperative that every vehicle be checked under strict emissions guidelines, the smog is gone. Thanks, California, and the EPA.

We are at a time when major changes like dismantling the EPA and denying climate change will have a major impact on our country and the future of our children and their children. Yes, some of the guys in Congress will be dead. But right this moment, this very day, they need to care about REAL PEOPLE, the ones living now and those that will come after. Let’s vote them out, if they don’t.

P.S. I am proud to say that as an RN, I worked at the Polk County Health Department in Des Moines, Iowa from 2009-2013. I helped educate people during the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic. I created and wrote an education program to help folks with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. And I witnessed how health departments screen children for lead poisoning, provide immunizations for children and adults and help those with sexually transmitted diseases. Health departments also go through drills in the case of nuclear attack, wide spread pandemics and other disasters. We need our local health departments. THEY ARE BEHIND REAL PEOPLE.

Photo Credit: ARTWORK

Instead of Fear: Positive Things We Can Do to Help Immigrants

Instead of Fear: Positive Things We Can Do to Help Immigrants

When I answered my phone earlier today, a voice that sounded like Darth Vader told me that they were from the IRS and that I would soon be visited by police–I HUNG UP. I didn’t bother to listen to their bullshit reason. I know the IRS will never call me. I read stuff. I educate myself. But many folks do not. This is another lie, another gimmick, another ruse to get someone to fork over money or leave their house unattended or whatever. FEAR FEAR. Ramp it up. It’s everywhere. And it makes me very angry.

We seem to be living in an era where it’s okay to use fear to make money, sell something, get elected. (It’s been done before, but as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which translated means–don’t sit around thinking about all the things you fear or you will become paralyzed.)

SECURITY COMPANIES INSTILL FEAR

There was a time when people in the security business advertised their services by listing what you could get if you signed up: a sign in your front yard, wiring for so many rooms. Now they skip that. Now they use video of robbers at your front door or slogans like: it’s the holidays so robbers will be after your new computer and the gifts you have purchased. Then there’s the gun issue. I will not live in any state that allows open carry. I pay my taxes. I have the gift of a phone that can go with me everywhere. I can always dial 911.

NEIGHBORS INSTILL FEAR 

In the area where I live there was a big effort to prevent moving special education children from one school in one neighborhood to another school in another neighborhood. And the letters I read in the paper linked it to an influx of fear–if those kids were moved, the neighborhood would change. Really? Where is the human consideration for caring for one’s fellow man? It’s gone. Lock your doors. But remember, everything you do your children see and take to heart. Are you raising fearful children?

Fear almost always involves THE OTHER. It was the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. And as indoctrination took over, most people turned away and allowed their neighbors or doctors or teachers to be taken away. FEAR.

OUR GOVERNMENT INSTILLS FEAR

In our country today some people in power are making immigrants THE OTHER. A recent travel ban and a lie about a massacre that did not exist or illegal voting that cannot be proved strives to CONTROL US with fear. “There are bad people out there and they are going to take over.” So don’t question. Give up your own principles that you grew up with. Buy into the fear program. Join us.

AN IMMIGRANT SPEAKS

No. Absolutely not. A recent article by Lev Golinkin in the LA Times stressed once again that we are a country of immigrants. He was nine when his family fled the Soviet Ukraine. They were refugees in Austria and then made it to America. He assimilated quickly because he was young. But even at that age he discovered that immigrants are not always welcome.

I am third generation German descent. On my mother’s side my people were farmers and when they settled in the outskirts of Chicago, they opened a florist business, actually grew flowers in a large field right next to their home. My maternal grandmother had some education beyond high school. My maternal grandfather did not.

English was spoken in their households. Golinkin writes that native-born Americans enjoy a tremendous advantage over someone who cannot speak English. He writes that not knowing the language of the country one has immigrated to is greater than a barrier: When you don’t speak English, it’s as if you’ve suffered a debilitating stroke, except instead of being rushed to the hospital, you have to look for a job. What you value about yourself–your smarts, humor, honesty, eloquence–requires language. But it’s gone. You could be a poet in Arabic; in English, you’re an idiot. Worse, when you can’t communicate your thoughts to those around you, they assume you don’t have any in the first place. You disappear; you’re a non-person.

Golinkin provides some things you can do to help immigrants that you might encounter during your day:

  1. You see someone verbally attacking an immigrant who struggles with the language. Enter the equation and ask if you can help. Imbalance vanishes. Now the immigrant has a voice and the tormentor will either help with the stopped transaction or walk away.
  2. Don’t criticize an immigrant who doesn’t immediately call the police. Americans are taught from birth to assert their rights, but refugees and immigrants are wired to do the opposite. They don’t want to raise their voices or to be noticed. Golinkin relates that even though his father is an engineer and his mother a security guard for two decades in the US, they still are terrified of even the most innocuous encounters with police. I get that. My heart rate goes crazy if I’m ever pulled over by police and I’m white and native born.
  3. Finally, Golinkin asks that you not be offended if you don’t get a thank you after you have helped an immigrant. He remembers people who helped him when he first arrived in the US. Not only was he struggling with language, but he also was sick of being a charity case. BUT, he didn’t forget anyone who helped him. The bad experiences have faded, but those who helped him shine like stars.

I can still see their faces from the brief interactions that enabled me and my family to materialize out the ghostly existence of statelessness and feel human. You don’t forget the good ones.

If each one of us could strive to aid another. If each one of us could teach our children to be tolerant. If each one of us could reject what we hear daily about FEAR FEAR FEAR–we  can definitely make a difference. David Brooks writes in the New York Times:

We can argue about immigration and trade and foreign policy, but nothing will be right until we restore and revive the meaning of America. Are we still the purpose-driven experiment Lincoln described and Emma Lazarus wrote about: assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race; and to look after one another because we are all important in this common project? Or are we just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world?

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Vox.com

Three Ways to Save on Your Meds

Three Ways to Save on Your Meds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern medicine supports our health in ways far beyond what generations before us experienced. Research and development of new medications is ongoing, but the cost of these “wonder” drugs might take your breath away. For seniors, that’s where Medicare Part D comes in–providing you access to medications that keep you healthy while helping your budget too.

I have been asked to participate in the #PartDAtWalgreens campaign, sponsored by Walgreens. But please know, though I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.

My husband and I use Medicare Part D. Each fall we review our list of prescription medications to see if they are covered by insurance, taking into account the benefit of using an insurance plan’s preferred pharmacy, which saves us money. We know that even if you didn’t alter your Medicare coverage plan during open enrollment, some changes may have been made that can raise or lower your prescription drug costs. In order to get the most from your benefit under Medicare’s Part D coverage, talk to a pharmacist at your local Walgreens pharmacy and check out the three steps below that could provide you with potential savings on your 2017 prescriptions.

  • Check to see if your plan utilizes preferred pharmacies.
  • Check whether a less expensive prescription drug brand or generic is an option available to you.
  • And when you fill your prescriptions, consider a 90-day refill. This may not only save you money, it provides you with the convenience of eliminating trips to the pharmacy.

Depending on the design of your plan, your coverage and your prescription drugs, you can pay higher copays at one pharmacy in comparison to another if your pharmacy is not in your plan’s preferred network. That’s why it’s important to make sure your pharmacy of choice is in your plan’s preferred network.

The Walgreen’s pharmacist will work with you, talk to you and guide you to prescription savings. For more information, go HERE.

What’s a Copay and How Walgreens Saves You Money

Your Walgreens pharmacist will provide detailed information about your copay– your out-of-pocket payment that you make for your medication, supplementing what your insurer has already allowed for a particular drug. You want to make sure that your copays are as low as possible. Walgreens can help you save with lower copays, because they are a PREFERRED PHARMACY with many Part D prescription plans nationwide. For some of these plans Walgreens offers copays as low as $0 on certain generic drugs.

Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist about the cost of each of the drugs you will be using in 2017. Different pharmacies can charge different copays for the same drug. But because Walgreens is a preferred pharmacy, they have an agreement with many Part D plans to offer you lower copays, costing you less. And certainly you want to get the best benefit. So if you are a Medicare beneficiary seeking help navigating prescription drug costs, you can find additional resources HERE.

Information Can Help Your Health and Your Wallet

Sometimes life can get in the way and prevent the necessary research that leads to a better decision. In a RECENT WALGREENS SURVEY of prescription users, 34 percent admitted that they weren’t taking the time to review their prescription drug plan prior to renewing it.

Almost one-in-five (19%) admitted they did not have a good understanding of their plan. To break this down: 22% admitted that they look at just one component of their plan, checking, for example, to see if the meds they need are covered, yet not looking at other important considerations. One in five interviewed, or 21%, falsely believed that all pharmacies charge the exact same copay.

And…33% did not know that they could switch pharmacies outside of the enrollment period–in other words, any time of year.

OKAY–the above affect your wallet, but as a nurse, I’m concerned with the following statistic: to manage their budget, 12% of the people interviewed stated that they delayed filling a current prescription and 9% stated that they skipped doses to stretch the medication supply and thus save money. Your health comes first. Your doctor prescribes a dose and administration of that dose for a reason–to get you well or keep you well or treat a chronic condition. Bottom line: make that phone call or talk to your Walgreens pharmacist. Your health depends on it.

Balance® Rewards Program

Another reason for choosing Walgreens is their Balance® Rewards loyalty program. Consumers can earn points at Walgreens for items they are already buying and for services they are already using at Walgreens like film processing**. The program also awards points for filling prescriptions in store (except in AR, NJ or NY). It’s a double win—Med D customers don’t just get copays that are as low as $0 on certain generic drugs on select plans—they also get points. It works like this: the more points you earn; the more rewards you’ll get. A no-brainer.

Examples of points through Balance® Rewards: For filling a 30-day prescription you get 100 points. For filling a 90-day prescription** you get 300 points. For being immunized at Walgreens—a flu shot, shingles vaccine, pneumonia etc.–you get 100 points. And for shopping items, you’ll get 10 points per $1 on almost everything—every day and bonus points on featured products each week.

Help for Caregivers

Are you a caregiver, unable to find time to visit a pharmacy, but greatly in need of advice on the use of a medication, cost, duration of administration etc.? Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist on the phone or utilize WALGREENS ONLINE TOOLS to manage prescriptions. After signing in with a password, you can hold a confidential and secure chat with a member of Walgreens pharmacy team. When I talked to Mireille Philiposian, the pharmacist at my local Walgreens, she stressed that you can get FREE expert advice day or night online or with the Walgreens mobile app. You will also be able to print or receive an email chat transcript for reference—very helpful when you are in a stressful situation.

There are many different ways you can switch to Walgreens:

  • Visit Walgreens.com and transfer online.
  • Download the Walgreens mobile app and follow instructions for transferring
  • Call and transfer over the phone.
  • Stop at your neighborhood Walgreens and talk to a pharmacist.

Your Health Is a Gift

I blog about health on Boomer Highway. I’m a huge advocate of prevention. But I know that sometimes folks are just not comfortable ASKING for help. Don’t be. Healthcare professionals want to help. Your pharmacist might be busy, but he or she can provide answers, put an end to worry. He or she can advise you if you are having a reaction to a drug and need to stop taking that drug and try a substitute. Prevention also means a flu shot or other immunizations. Stop at the counter. ASK. Stay healthy and enjoy the gift of health.

**Prescription points limited to 50,000 points per calendar year and cannot be earned in AR, NJ or NY or on prescriptions transferred to a participating store located in AL, MS, OR or PR. Due to state and federal laws, points cannot be earned or redeemed on some items. Other restrictions apply. Complete details at Walgreens.com/Balance

#PartDAtWalgreens

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walgreens. The opinions and text are all mine.

Stay Healthy in 2017

 

Stay Healthy in 2017

Winter is the season for respiratory flu. People are inside without fresh air, allowing viruses to be easily passed from person to person. I’ve talked to four people in the last week who have either a bad cold or because of a fever are bed-ridden. Flu shots help and though the immunity will not kick in on day one, there is a lot of winter left. So get a flu shot. Stay healthy in 2017.

The Doonesbury cartoon is referring to a new study that revealed that women doctors often have better communication skills and that their patients have better results. You can read more about it here.  

But regardless of the sex of your doctor, the important thing is that you have one–that you have healthcare and are going to take care of yourself in this new year. Here’s a list to help you do just that.

  1. Even if you are feeling good today, make sure that you schedule a yearly physical. On the day of your appointment and especially if this doctor you are seeing is new and won’t have access to your health records, prepare one. List your medications, surgeries, any chronic illnesses and know what your family health history is for your parents, grandparents and siblings.
  2. This is a critical year for anyone covered by THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. Make your appointments now. Schedule tests and needed surgery now. Example: a colonoscopy. Don’t procrastinate. Even if you are over 50 and have no symptoms, you risk a colon cancer diagnosis–and people can die. Need costly treatments? Schedule them now.
  3. If you or your daughter or your friend’s daughter etc has been thinking of having a baby take advantage of the ACA’s pregnancy and infant care benefits. These can keep the cost of your delivery around $1,500. Before the ACA, almost 90 % of individual health plans excluded maternity coverage altogether. Need contraception–birth control pills, an IUD–make an appointment now at your physician’s office or Planned Parenthood.
  4. You can still sign up for Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. It provides you with the best affordable health plan–with federal subsidies or without. NOTE: despite talk about soaring premiums and deductibles, around 75% of enrollees still will only pay around $100.00 a month for an ACA plan in 2017, complete with its 10 essential health benefits. Open enrollment ends on TUESDAY, January 31, 2017.

Are you concerned about your health this very moment? Here are questions to consider when seeing your doctor. Thanks, Dr. John Ely.

  1. Where is your pain (if that’s your complaint) and where does it radiate i.e. move;
    this symptom: lasts how long? occurs how often? is getting worse? is getting better?
  2. Describe what you were doing when this pain first occurred.
  3. Do you have other symptoms associated with this symptom, with this pain? Describe them.
  4. Using an example, describe the quality of your symptom i.e. pain is like the stabbing of an ice pick or burns like fire.
  5. Now describe the quantity of this symptom i.e. on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst what is it?
  6. What makes your symptom worse? if your were dizzy is it worse when you roll over in bed?
  7. What improves the symptom? Heat, cold, sleep, eating, movement etc.

Also consider your sex and what annual exams you might need to insure your health. For females: mammography, bone density scanning (also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), Pap smear and the usual blood pressure and blood work.

For SPECIFIC information for women, go here–info is from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For SPECIFIC information for men, go here 

Considering that you probably make sure that you do yearly maintenance on your car–do the same for your body. Your health is a gift. Make sure you do everything you can to take care of it, especially in these uncertain times. You need to stay healthy in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks to Frank Lalli in Parade and thanks to Garry Trudeau

 

Secrets and Lies Make a Story, Not a Life

Secrets and Lies Make a Story

I’ve been working on a novel for a long time, a story about a secret which becomes a major lie and profoundly affects a family. In literature, the engine of the story is often something negative–a problem that the protagonist must overcome, a hurt that must be healed.

Think of your favorite stories, the conflicts that the hero or heroine had to solve, or the worry and fear that often drive them to pursue a goal. Even in the comedic world, there is always a struggle. It might make you laugh, but it does make you root for someone. That’s what it means to turn the page.

In my novel, a child goes missing and finds comfort in a murder of crows that have descended on the city where she is living with her abductor. Thus the art above. Being a child she is wary of lies. She knows that she is now in the wrong place. She hungers for her parents and for the normal life she once led.

Wow. Look what I just wrote–normal life, wary of lies, in the wrong place. After a weekend where an argument over numbers became so important that a phrase was coined–ALTERNATIVE FACTS--I thought of fiction. I love fiction. I love story. But I also, like my little Sarah in my novel–I am wary of lies. Don’t lie to me. Don’t take me for a fool. Okay? Because somewhere, away from the secrets and lies, is TRUTH. And I am not afraid to seek it out, to know it, to look it in the face. Don’t mess with me.

John Keats wrote: Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. 

What did this amazing poet mean? Oh well–readers, writers, teachers and scholars have been arguing that for years, since the ink dried on his parchment.

Keats wanted to condense his ideas in few words. Isn’t that what poetry is? Things in nature fell into his personal definition of beauty. His works captured the Beauty of life and made it a truth for all the ages. His own individual logic told him that things of this earth that are beautiful are truthful–a spiritual association.

But Keats didn’t just write about walking through fields of flowers. He saw the sorrow and sadness in life. He acknowledged ALL of life in his work. So did Walk Whitman. Think of the poem, I Hear America Singing. 

America, our country. It’s so amazing. So awesome. And I say this from my heart, grateful for the roof over my head (laugh out loud, we just had to repair it during rains we here in California desperately need). Grateful for my health insurance–but so worried about millions losing coverage because of the possibility of losing the Affordable Care Act–Obamacare. Some people have actually said we should get rid of Obamacare, but keep the Affordable Care Act. OKAY!! Where are they getting their information? What lies are they believing?

Each of us has a story to tell. And those stories will never become novels. They are our personal stories. But we must hold them to the truth. When we raise our children–truth. When we pledge love to a spouse–truth. When we work at our jobs–truth.

Mark Twain was so damn smart. He said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” And you don’t have to make up “alternative facts.”

Writing a novel is hard work but so much fun. You create your own world, make up your own story, create characters you want to hug and those you don’t want to be in the same room with. But creating lies to boldly hide secrets does not work. They will come back and ruin things. Make a pledge today to look for the truth, honor it and fight for it. At the end of the day, you can lose yourself in a STORY (TV NOVEL FILM) and yet feel safe that America is still protecting and caring for you the way a country should.

PS As a registered nurse, I support healthcare for everyone. I support OBAMACARE.  

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Let’s look at some ideas about democracy and see how it has been woven into our lives from the very beginning, from the birth of the United States of America–until the present, where today, we take for granted such freedoms. Democracy, government by the people, for the people, must always be an integral part of our lives.  

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington

The system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst the wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history. Thomas Jefferson

The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations. Thomas Jefferson 

Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. Alexander Hamilton

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. Abraham Lincoln

Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions. The present moment finds me at the White House, yet there is as good a chance for your children as there was for my father’s. Abraham Lincoln

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Democracy is a superior form of government, because it is based on a respect for man as a reasonable being. John F. Kennedy

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. Life in freedom is not easy and democracy is not perfect. John F. Kennedy

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in. John F. Kennedy 

The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world. Martin Luther King

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Martin Luther King 

The United States was born in revolution and nurtured by struggle. Throughout our history, the American people have befriended and supported all those who seek independence and a better way of life. Robert F. Kennedy 

Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. Ronald Reagan

We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever. Ronald Reagan 

You cannot put democracy and freedom back into a box. George W. Bush

It is an idea for which I hope to live and to see realized, but, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela

The real legacy of the Founding Fathers is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in the United States for more than two hundred years. Unknown, BUT SO IMPORTANT 

The worst thing that can happen in a democracy – as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope. Hillary Clinton

Democracy works–but we gotta want it–not just during an election year, but all the days in between. Barack Obama 

The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. Barack Obama

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our Democracy; Tonight is your answer. Barack Obama

Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Barack Obama

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government. Donald Trump

On the occasion of losing our current president to a new one, I pledge myself to believing in our freedoms: freedom of speech and word, freedom to dissent, to argue and thus to continue to claim the freedoms that the fourth estate has always possessed–freedoms given to us by our founding fathers. Concerned? Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine; watch a variety of televised news shows. Keep up to date on what is happening. Don’t become complacent. Ever. Politics is not a disgrace and there are many good people working for us. We must cling to the good that our founders saw in our democracy.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in THE GREAT GATSBY: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance

How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance

I welcome Julie Morris, author of this guest post.

We hear the term “work-life balance” all the time, but as a life coach, I’ve noticed that most people don’t really strive for it. In fact nearly half of working Americans reported taking zero vacation days in 2014, and many who do take their vacation time still end up bringing work along.

Making time for yourself and the activities you enjoy is a crucial element of overall wellness–especially when it comes to mental health. It can even make going to work less stressful! It takes a conscious effort, but finding the right balance of work and play is easier than you might think whether you’re an entrepreneur, a full-time parent, or a working student.

With a busy lifestyle comes stress, anxiety, and even depression as we try to battle through balancing work with the demands of life. It’s difficult to manage a long to-do list at work while worrying about all the things you have to take care of at home. So it’s important to know a few tips on how to relax, stay healthy, and manage your stress.

One of the first things you’ll need to do is get organized. A good planner can go a long way toward helping you keep track of everything you need to do, and having it written down in front of you can help you stay on task and give you a sense of accomplishment once you cross it off your list.

Read on to find out how you can manage work and daily life in a healthy way.

  1. Put away the screen

Once you’ve made a schedule, be sure to stick to it. Write down all your plans, events, and responsibilities and leave time to get shopping, cleaning, and other chores done. Afterward, you’ll have a good idea of how much free time you can carve out to go to the gym, relax with a book, or catch up on your favorite television shows, and while you’re doing those things, put away the computer and phone. It’s important to have time just to yourself when you aren’t answering emails or dealing with work issues.

  1. Learn how to relax

Studies have shown that chronic stress can actually double your chances of having a heart attack, and it can also lead to anxiety, depression, and heart disease. Learn to relax by trying out different techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. Take a hot shower before bed at night to help ease tension; light lavender scented candles to aid in relaxation. You could even try picking up a new, low-key hobby like knitting, painting, or writing that allows you an outlet for expressing yourself.

  1. Be realistic

Setting goals is a good thing, but you’ll need to be realistic when you do so. Creating manageable tasks to accomplish is necessary when you’re balancing many things at once, so start small and work your way up. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask for help. For example, if you have the resources, you might hire helpers for tasks such as dog walking or house cleaning. Having someone lend a hand can help you finish your to-do list and take some of the pressure off your shoulders. If for some reason you can’t get to your planned relaxation activity (if you forgot your book at work, for instance), embrace the opportunity to try something new like going for a walk under the night sky. Make it easy on yourself to work in your “you” time, and soon it will feel more like a habit.

  1. Listen to your favorite music

Listening to music that makes you happy can boost your mood, reduce stress, and help you be more efficient when you’re working. When you start to feel overwhelmed, turn on some music and see if it helps you focus.

  1. Learn to say no

Taking on too many projects or tasks is easy to do when you enjoy helping others. But it’s important to learn how to say no when someone wants too much of your time. It’s okay to kindly turn someone down when you already have a lot on your plate.

We often convince ourselves we “don’t have the time” to relax and do the things we actually want to do, but it’s simply not true. In fact, making time for ourselves can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, discover new hobbies, and find an overall sense of inner peace.

This post was written by Julie Morris. She  is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Check out Julie’s blog here. She will have even more advice to help you achieve a work-life balance. 

Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Walking is so good for you–try to get outside and walk even in winter.

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to
be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” ― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

I love this quote of scientist Hope Jahren. She is so correct. Each day is precious.  Each day is an extension of our BEING, so know that all efforts count. If each of us is inevitable, we should renew and reexamine our destinations and how we are affecting others as we go on our journey. That journey is certainly ours alone, but we bring children and family along with us, so we must be gentle and aware of how our lives are affecting theirs.

In this new year, are you eager to discover new things, work new ideas, make decisions that benefit you and those you love?

Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

LOVE THIS. In many ways, when we are out in the world talking to people, being kind to people we are spreading help. Wouldn’t it be great if we left some kindness, however brief, with each person we encountered during the day. The world would feel more open and generous.

Yet here is another thought. “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Hope Jahren has a great handle on things. Discovery changes us. So what can we discover each day, you might ask.

Here are some suggestions.

  1. Discover your feet. Walk daily for 30 minutes, with a friend to forge a relationship or by yourself to meditate, work out a problem, listen to music. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE. This is mental conditioning and also aerobic conditioning. Walking gets your heart to pump oxygen and nutrients to your brain. If you are with a friend, a conversation will further strengthen neural circuits. But avoid the phone call routine–it once again ties you to a device. Break-away when you can.
  2. Discover plants. In what way? First, eat more of them! Consume all kinds of lettuces. Learn how to make potatoes, onions and green vegetables the center of your main meal. Bring carrots, cucumber slices and radishes to enhance your lunch. Remember that colorful fruits and vegetables provide lycopene, folate, Vitamin A, phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which protect your vision, cancer fighters flavonoids, ellagic acid and anthocyanins. For more details go here.  
  3. Second, start a garden. It could be in a window box, pots along the window ledge or any size garden in any part of your yard. Choosing what to plant, working the soil, watching the growth of your garden and harvesting produce–all contribute to your health i.e. good food, sunshine and fresh air.
  4. Discover sleep. Eating, relaxing and then going to bed at a regular time each night or most nights contributes to better health. Irregular schedules are a major source of stress on your body. If you work nights, try to maintain as normal a schedule as possible when you do come home–and include in that schedule 6-8 hours of sleep.
  5. Discover something new. Your brain and your human need for interaction with others love new activities. They can stimulate you physically, mentally and socially. They provide a challenge that increases feelings of well being. Whether you take up something in the arts, sports or sign up for a class where you read books and listen to lectures or work on a computer–you are challenging yourself. Go for it.
  6. Discover that being with people at least part of the day is better than being alone. We are social beings and require the stimulus of personal interaction to “get our juices” flowing. Volunteer. Attend lectures. Go to museums and libraries were talks are presented and you can interact with people who have interests similar to yours.
  7. Discover the ONE STEP AT A TIME RULE. You can’t start a garden, sign up for a six week class and totally change your diet on a dime. Go slowly. Make careful choices and enjoy educating yourself as you go: like reading gardening catalogues, or checking out what adult ed classes will be available to you next semester or going to the library to study cook books until you find one that you want to own and use–so if you slop tomato sauce on it–no big deal. And of course the internet can always provide you with many of the answers you would find in books. CLUE: getting out to the library requires movement, walking maybe, meeting other people–ie you are discovering that personal interaction that staying at home often cannot provide.
  8. Discover that after a while you won’t need the following: cigarettes; feeling lonely; ignoring bodily symptoms; taking daily painkillers; not exercising; being angry and worried and stressed more often than being happy.

Wishing you healthy change in 2017. And this from poet, Mary Oliver, from her collection of essays UPSTREAM:

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was and what I wanted to be.   I submit this is true at any age. Go out there and discover more about the world and about yourself. Happy New Year.

Thanks to: AARP.ORG Bulletin

Humming a Tune, Summing Up a Year, Piling up Some Books

Humming a Tune, Summing Up a Year, Piling up Some Books

Music can often get a person through some down times. There’s a famous Rogers and Hammerstein song from THE KING AND I, a musical comedy, called, Whistle a Happy Tune. Check it out here. The lyrics relate that whenever you feel afraid, whistling (or in my life singing) can block out your fear or sorrow or disgust and help you believe that things are okay or soon will be.

Music’s Easy Access

With our many devices and the ability to access music anywhere, we could walk around with headphones on and indulge in music, blocking everything else out. I think that’s called escaping. Which is okay, as long as it doesn’t prevent us from doing necessary tasks like childcare and work. But as this year of 2016 ends and we stand on the brink of a new one, having music to cheer us and guide us would be a good thing. Any suggestions for what we should be listening to? Here are a few: Beyonce, LEMONADE; Leonard Cohen, YOU WANT IT DARKER; Diana Krall, WALLFLOWER; HAMILTON, the original Broadway cast and SIMON RATTLE IN NEW YORK, which includes works by Wagner and Mahler.(I confess these are mostly serious choices. You have some lighter ones? Please share.)

Print? Even Better

But the activity that provides me with escape and yet also fuels my brain is one I do on a nightly basis–reading. What have you read this year? Or what are you planning to read besides editorials or columns about the 2016 election and that THE WORLD IS ENDING. Last I noticed, we are still here and while my heart has stopped a few times as cabinet members are chosen and tweets fill the air, I still believe in my country. And I believe more than ever in the power of the written word.

If You Tweet, Read to Back Up What You Say

And to define written word, I’m not talking about 140 characters, which in the wrong hands might help take down years and years of detente and hard work. No, I’m talking about our personal relationship with words, language and story. And I’m also talking about EMPATHY. We are going to need a lot of it in 2017.

“The greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you’ve shared.” Will Schwalbe 

So I was delighted when I came across an article that appeared in the WALL STREET JOURNAL and was written by editor and writer, Will Schwalbe, the author of THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB. The idea for this successful book came about when his mother was undergoing chemotherapy. They were both constantly reading, so they decided to read the same books which would provide a basis for conversation while they spent time in the hospital waiting room. The article relates: “The ones they choose range from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, and we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.” What better way to become even closer to someone you love as their life is drawing to a close.

But from this adventure in reading, the author learned a truth. He writes: “I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book. But I don’t say that anymore because I no longer think it’s true. I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I’ve come to believe that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you’ve shared.” Just as you often want to introduce someone you love to someone else that you love, the same applies to a book.

Did you love STEWART LITTLE as a child? Or DAVID COPPERFIELD or SONG OF SOLOMON as you grew in your book choices? Schwalbe did and shares his reactions. So I encourage you to read the complete article here.

And please share the titles that you either enjoyed in 2016 or are eager to read in 2017. I’ll do the same with Schwalbe’s words humming in my head:

Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny–but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

May I also suggest my collection of stories about motherhood: A MOTHER’s TIME CAPSULE. You’ll find more info here.

Thanks to: WSJ & Will Schwalbe for his road to sanity. http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-need-to-read-1480083086

Photo Credit: ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN STAUFFER which appeared in WSJ